Wagner woman helps wild raptors and other wildlife

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Donna Lamb lives in Wagner. She’s been rescuing and transporting raptors, small mammals and other birds for WILDNorth for the last seven years.

Her favourite part is releasing the recovered animals.

Located near St. Albert, WILDNorth rehabilitates injured animals from across northern Alberta. Lamb transports from the Lesser Slave Lake region, but has also transported birds from further away. When this happens, she meets someone at a midway point, and transports the injured animal on the last leg of the journey.

WILDNorth tends to be very busy in the spring, she says. For example, at the moment, it has 50 ducklings.

“WILDNorth provides compassionate care to thousands of injured and orphaned wild animals each year, and educates our communities about humanely coexisting with wildlife,” says a WILDNorth information pamphlet.

Lamb became an eagle lover before she started transporting injured animals. Around 12 years ago, she started watching online cameras on eagles nests in British Columbia. Now she has four of five she watches regularly.

Lamb doesn’t remember the details of how she started transporting, but is pretty sure she found an injured raptor – hawk, eagle, osprey, or owl. It was probably an eagle. She’d seen WILDNorth on the news and contacted them. They asked her if she could transport the bird and she said yes.

While training exists to learn how to capture and release injured animals, Lamb mostly taught herself. The tools are a blanket, cage, and thick gloves.
It is important to keep your face away from the bird and be as quiet as possible.
When transporting the animals, Lamb doesn’t listen to music and keeps the vehicle as quiet as possible. This is to keep the animal calm.

In one of her hardest rescues, a raptor was too injured to fly, but could still run. Lamb chased the bird across the highway and through a frigid creek.

While raptors are her passion, Lamb transports all types of animals. She’s transported a fox kit, baby magpies, and other animals.

Raptors need to be released into their home territory, so Lamb transports the recovered animals back. She keeps in contact with the person who reported the injured animal and they are often able to be there for the release.

If you take the time to contact the WILDNorth and help the bird, says Lamb, “you deserve the greatest feeling of letting it go.”

When possible, the person who contacted her about the injured animal is the one to open the zipper on the cage and let the animal free.

Donna Lamb with a rescued hawk before transporting it to WILDNorth animal rescue near St. Albert. Photos courtesy of Donna Lamb.

WILDNorth has two compounds. One is a hospital near St. Albert and the other is a larger compound for monitoring the wildlife. This includes flight pens, so the staff can monitor the bird’s flight and make sure they can hunt.

On one visit, Lamb saw many volunteers feeding around 200 birds two to three times a day with tweezers.

A while ago, she was filmed by CBC while releasing an eagle. She had to go to WILDNorth’s second facility in Parkland County to learn how to handle the healed bird. To be handled, raptors are hooded so they can’t see. When they can’t see, they are calm and still. This is also the reason for the blanket when capturing the bird.

When releasing this eagle, Lamb had to remove the hood in the vehicle, to ensure that the bird didn’t escape with it on. As a blinded eagle wouldn’t survive. However, as soon as the hood was off, the bird opened its eight feet wing span and started moving. The release to a few seconds once the door was open.

Healthy birds have triple energy of injured ones, Lamb says.

Those animals which don’t recover to the level that they can survive in the wild are kept at WILDNorth as educational animals.

Twice a day, Lamb checks on several eagles nests on the Southshore. If she sees that a fledgling has fallen out of the nest, she tries to rescue it.

WILDNorth helps birds and small mammals, these include foxes and beavers. If you see injured wildlife call the wildlife hotline at 780-914-4118.
It is a non-profit. Lamb and other people volunteer their time and fuel to help out the injured animals.

An injured bald eagle on its way to WILDNorth animal rehab by St. Albert.

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