The Wildlife Rescue Society of Saskatchewan (WRSOS) is a unique entity in all of Canada.
This group comprised of volunteers is dedicating their free time and energy to rescuing wildlife that is injured, stranded, or in other forms of distress. The WRSOS’s sole purpose is to make contact with injured animals and get them into the hands of rehabilitators and other experts.
Their mission began years ago, as a group of rehabilitationists were discussing the need for a province-wide service capable of responding to calls for distressed animals. For Bonnie Dell, the executive director of WRSOS, that mission is still the most important part of what they do.
“No one else runs a provincial wildlife helpline and wildlife rescue service,” said Dell. “[The helpline] is free of charge, and if we feel it’s necessary to bring an animal in, we have volunteers who will do the actual wildlife rescue and transport.”
The helpline and rescue services that WRSOS provides began operating in 2006. The first organizers were immediately able to recognize how having a helpline enabled a fast response time, where volunteers could rush to an animal, and quickly transport it to an animal hospital or shelter.
The helpline works with people phoning in their location, explaining the situation, and providing accurate directions for the responding volunteers. Since opening their phone lines, the WRSOS has slowly but steadily been building traction as a service in Saskatchewan.
“When I started in 2017, they were getting about 1,200 calls a year,” noted Dell. “Last year, we had over 5,000 calls.”
Last year was when the group officially started focusing entirely on rescues, allowing rehabilitation professionals to handle the animal care and maintenance. The sole goal of volunteers is getting the animals to them, ensuring they get the best care possible.
Everything they do is dependent on volunteers. These people commit themselves to being able to respond when possible, travelling great distances in some cases to help the wildlife.
Currently, WRSOS is looking for volunteers in southwest Saskatchewan. This region of the province has great animal density, but few available responders for the calls that come in.
“We get so many calls from Swift Current and that southwest corner of the province,” confirmed Dell. “It’s pretty vast and we could use a lot of help there.”
People who are interested ins signing up can check out the WRSOS website, where they can learn more and contact the organization with any questions.
One of the options for prospectives is to aid as transporters. They take the animals from A to B, not having to contact the animal physically if they do not wish to. There is also, of course, an option for people who can pick up and handle animals carefully. The variety of wildlife means they need to be able to handle anything from an injured deer, all the way down to the likes of a stranded gosling.
“Obviously there’s a lot to learn for rescue training,” said Dell. “We would go over all of the safety for things like diseases and how to handle wildlife properly.”
WRSOS works in close proximity with Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre. Megan Lawrence, the director for Salthaven, sits on the board with WRSOS and helps to ensure that training for animals is up to standard.
Another pair of components for the WRSOS that are equally as important as their responding volunteers are their phone operators and their marketing experts. Phone workers would receive training on how to take calls, talk to folks who may be distressed about the animal, and how to accrue information from them.
Marketing experts are a recent need of the group, as they are looking for ways to better balance their recent growth. They need folks who can pull together a fundraiser to help them cover operational costs grows with each new volunteer and endeavour they take on.
“It’s a great place to volunteer,” said Dell. “Once you do it the first time, you will be hooked for life.”