Win Bear Prints - NLWS Fundraiser!
Then read on for details of my June fundraiser for the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada. The NLWS is the only grizzly bear rehabilitation facility on the planet and last month I got the chance to visit the Shelter on a private tour from owners Peter and Angelika Langen to learn what this amazing operation is all about.
Founded in 1990 by the Langens, the Shelter has rehabilitated and released more than 277 bears back into the wild in British Columbia. And in 2007, they became the first and only wildlife shelter in the world to begin rehabbing and releasing orphan grizzly bear cubs back into their home ranges.
The Shelter is home to more than just orphan bears, as they've already taken in three moose calves this year and they regularly rehab and release moose calves, deer fawns, and a host of smaller creatures like baby beavers, baby otters, baby raccoons, and baby foxes each year!
And rather than having me write on and on about how great the Shelter is, I thought I'd give you a first-hand look at what they do and why I'm doing a fundraiser for them. Check out this short (and VERY exciting, haha!) 8-minute video I put together from my visit in May (or click here to view the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter video full-size on youtube:
The Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter fundraising efforts
I first contacted the Shelter two years ago in May when two young grizzly cubs (Quill and Morant) were orphaned in Banff National Park after their mother (Dawn) was killed by a train near Lake Louise the day after Cai Priestley and I had photographed her.
I spent quite a bit of time in the following days trying to convince Parks Canada to ship the undersized and underweight cubs to the Shelter in B.C., but in the end Parks decided to leave the cubs to fend for themselves (while both bears are believed to have survived two years on their own, Quill in particular has been in all sorts of trouble with humans and would be considered a long-shot at this point to become an adult bear given Parks Canada's poor track record with young adult male grizzlies in the Lake Louise area).
Fast-forward two years and through chance circumstances and the belief of one individual (thanks Carolee) that I could help the Shelter out with fundraising efforts, I got back in touch with the Langens and got to spend an incredible four hours at the Shelter in May touring the facilities and seeing their 2012 bears (32 black bears and 3 grizzlies) first-hand just weeks before their releases back into the wild!
The visit quite literally moved me to tears. I was astonished to see how much the Langens have accomplished with their limited resources, and I was buoyed beyond belief with the countless success stories that have come and gone from the Shelter over the years. But throughout it all, I continuously had a feeling that the Shelter could use an infusion of funds, that they were operating at near capacity and that they were getting dangerously close to having to reject baby bears in the near future if they weren't able to expand soon and upgrade some of their pens and buildings.
So I asked Angelika what was on her wish-list and I resolved to do my best to help her raise some of that money.
Here is a list of what the Shelter currently needs:
- a new grizzly bear pen. The current pen is great for grizzlies, but the adjoining black bear pen was at maximum capacity this year with 32 black bears. If Angelika can raise enough money to build a new grizzly bear pen beside the current one (there is already land set aside for this), then the old grizzly bear pen can be joined up with the current black bear pen, effectively increasing the size of the black bear pen by almost 400%, greatly enhancing its ability to take on more black bears!! Projected cost: $50,000
- an upgraded vet clinic/building. The current clinic building is run-down and rough. Angelika would like to completely clean it out and refinish the interior so that it is easier to maintain and more presentable when media visits to film or photograph new baby animals arriving at the Shelter (these media visits and original photographs from Angelika's staff of the new babies are critical in fund-raising efforts for day-to-day operations). Projected cost: $10,000
- a completed volunteer staff accommodation building. The current staff accomm is in Angelika's house and is wearing on the entire operation as they require more and more volunteers to keep things running smoothly and they're running out of room in her house to do so. Fortunately, the framing is already in place for a real staff accommodation building, but it still requires finishing inside (drywall, paint, etc) before anyone can move into it. Projected cost: $30,000
- a new Siberian lynx pen. Years ago the Shelter took in a pet Siberian lynx that was about to be euthanized by a vet. Unfortunately, the lynx is now using a space that would be better suited to bears than to a pet lynx and Angelika would love to move the lynx to a small new pen. Projected cost: $6,000
- new radio collars for bears. The Shelter would love more money to pay for radio and gps collars for released bears so they can continue to track the success records of their released bear cubs. Projected cost: $10,000
And here is how we're going to raise money for the Shelter:
The fundraiser is going to be as simple as possible. Between now and the end of June, if you donate $25 or more to the Shelter (donate here), you will automatically be entered into a random draw to win one of three 20"x30" archival display prints (valued at $395 each) from my collection of more than 6,000 bear photographs, including grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears and white kermode bears! The best part? You get to choose the photo you want!
But that's not it for prizes. In fact, the best one in my opinion is a full weekend volunteering at the Shelter helping with baby foxes and moose and so on in July 2013 or July 2014. Between now and the end of June, if you donate $100 or more to the Shelter (donate here) you will automatically be eligible to win a full weekend at the Shelter volunteering with the baby wildlife, everything from beavers to otters to foxes to deer fawns (depending what they have on hand - note that you will not get to help with the baby bears because in order to avoid habituation to humans, the bear feeding is done by just one person throughout the year)...so we'll fly you from Calgary (July 2013 only) or Vancouver (2013 or 2014) up to Smithers, BC, put you up in a hotel/inn near the Shelter, and then you'll get to help with the baby animals for an entire weekend, feeding baby moose with a bottle, helping out baby foxes, etc. This is an incredibly unique opportunity because normally you have to volunteer for SIX months to get to go into the Shelter (which is not open to the public), so I really think that the opportunity to go there for a weekend would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many of you. Note that this is fully transferrable, so if you win it and want to gift it to someone else, you can!
And the final thing in the prize pot is a full day in the field photographing bears with me in BC or Alberta (depending on the time of year and where you are located or where I will be traveling). Normally a day in the field with me costs $1195 a pop (and I very rarely even offer it), so this day with me is going to go to the highest donation received before the end of June. Donate $250 and you'll have a pretty good chance. Donate $500 and I'd say you'll have a really good chance. Donate $1000 and I'd say you'll probably win! Note that this is also transferrable as a gift to someone else.
I really hope many of you will consider donating by the end of this month. The Shelter is a charitable organization in Canada, so Canadians will all receive a tax receipt for any donations you make. But perhaps the best part of your donation will be the knowledge that your money is going to be helping baby wildlife from BC get rehabilitated and released back into the wild for years to come, particularly if we can raise enough for some of the Shelter's larger projects.
Thanks everyone, please let me know what you think of this fundraiser here in the Comments section or over on Facebook/Twitter.
Enjoy the video!