(403) 728-3467

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world.

- John Muir, Conservationist

Wildlife hospital front entrance
Hospital front entrance (Credit: Deana McNeish)

We conduct research in fostering wild orphans to wild families and share our findings both locally and internationally.

We support the public in wildlife conflict issues, teaching strategies to live in harmony. We encourage a replacement of frustration and hatred with understanding and tolerance.

Interns are hosted throughout the summer months giving opportunity for people from around the world to learn and connect with Alberta's wildlife.

Our education programs exist formally in classrooms and to community groups, seniors' homes, summer camps, and libraries. Teaching also happens through public events and displays, through handouts and brochures, digitally on our website, through social media, in our bi-weekly bulletins, and over the phone.

Our goal, through all our programs, is to connect people with nature and instil a sense of respect and appreciation.

MRWC would like to acknowledge that we are operating on the traditional territory of Treaty 7 1st Nations. Treaty 7 was signed on September 22nd, 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing. Those involved in the Treaty are the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Tsuut'ina (Sarcee), and Stoney-Nakoda including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations. Medicine River Wildlife Centre began on the very spot where Indigenous peoples came to bathe in the Medicine River to increase fertility.

Mavericks II - Carol Kelly

Watch this great video about our founder on YouTube.

  • Old red barn surrounded by snow

    1984 to 1988

    The Early Years

    Medicine River Wildlife Centre (MRWC) began in the basement and barn of a rental property with no thought of a long-term plan. The vision was that a few wild animals might come to the Red Deer SPCA each year and MRWC could help to care for them in the founder’s (Carol Kelly) rented home.

    Various birds in carriers and cages

    1984 to 1988

    Wildlife Rehabilitation was a relatively new concept in Alberta and although MRWC had many supporters, there were others who questioned it, criticized the efforts, and some were outright against it. Fundraising was exceedingly difficult. Very few people wanted to give to something they didn’t understand. The facility, vehicle, labour and many supplies came from Carol and her family. The children’s playroom became an intensive care room and the barn served as a flight area.

    Women in parka with black hawk

    1984 to 1988

    The first year saw 14 patients, admitted mostly through Red Deer Department of Fish and Wildlife (F&W).

    Man in uniform with women and owl

    1984 to 1988

    For the first 2 years, MRWC was not allowed to advertise as a "wildlife" hospital but had to call themselves an "animal" hospital.

    Woman in red jacket with owl

    1984 to 1988

    By the third year, MRWC was given permission to call themselves a wildlife hospital. The Red Deer Advocate did a one-page article on the Centre and the patient load increased to 284 the following year.

    Man and two women at wildlife event

    1984 to 1988

    Carol contacted numerous organizations and people to help increase her knowledge and create a network, including Calgary Zoo, F&W biologists, Morris Flewwelling, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Coaldale Birds of Prey Centre, and many more. She joined two international wildlife rehabilitation organizations and began attending conferences. 

    Open wetlands with trees in background

    1989 to 1992

    In 1989 a Banff Park Warden offered to sell the current home quarter to MRWC for $50,000. With the help of Morris Flewwelling, three co-signers were found who helped secure a $15,000 loan as a down payment. The landowner carried the balance as a mortgage and MRWC began to build a permanent facility.

    Brown walled building along country road

    1989 to 1992

    A 400 square foot building was constructed to act as the wildlife hospital and some outdoor cages were built.

    Foundation of new building

    1989 to 1992

    In 1990, a grant for $175,000 was received from the federal government to build a facility, thanks to a Board member who introduced MRWC to the concept of funding applications. The 5,000 square foot facility was built with home-grade materials, and no blueprints or contractors. It was well ahead of most wildlife rehabilitation centres at that time and seemed far too big to ever fill. Little did we realize what was coming.

    Construction of raptor cage

    1993 to 1999

    A 4-section, large raptor cage was built over several months for recovering birds of prey with donated labour and materials.

    Observation tower overlooking wetland

    1993 to 1999

    A nature trail and observation tower overlooking the wetland were constructed, once again, with donated materials and labour.

    Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators Association logo

    1993 to 1999

    About this time, Carol assisted in the formation of the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (AWRA).

    Woman educating children about wildlife

    1993 to 1999

    Requests for services began to come from many areas such as schools, organizations, members of the public, correctional institutions, foster care, and social services. MRWC kept saying “yes” to all these requests, stretching the resources and energy much too far.

    Old wooden exterior sign

    1993 to 1999

    Funding didn’t come as fast as the requests for services did, so soon debt began to build. MRWC had a banker who, when asked how to find ways to meet budget, would just approve a bigger loan.

    Man educating children with owl on arm

    1993 to 1999

    In 1995, a full time Education Coordinator was hired, and the formal on-site and off-site programs increased.

    Main entrance of old wildlife centre

    2000 to 2002

    MRWC entered a dark time in its growth when the bank’s head office began a foreclosure. Daily phone calls continually pressured MRWC for the money.

    Woman cleaning wildlife cages

    2000 to 2002

    Finding money to operate was always a stress. Staff worked long hours, many of which were physically taxing. Each day seemed to bring another problem.

    Old wildlife centre sign

    2000 to 2002

    Finally, Carol called a time out, took some time away to think, consulted with numerous people, and decided on a focused direction. MRWC stepped away from some of its activities and the priorities became caring for injured, orphaned, and compromised wildlife, education, applying for grants, improving the visibility in the community, acquiring a new visual identity, reducing costs and eliminating debt, and looking for ways to increase income and be more efficient.

    Woman working booth at wildlife event

    2000 to 2002

    Over the next few years, the MRWC continued with minimal staff, operated on budget and experienced slow but positive improvements. This was accomplished in part because 2 staff members (Erin and Carol) were wearing all the hats, without any other full-time staff. MRWC was able to hire a couple of summer staff through government grants.

    Men and women working bingo event

    2000 to 2002

    Volunteers were especially important to the success helping with bingos, animal care, patient transport, and fundraising.

    Two hawks sitting on perch

    2000 to 2002

    From the beginning, MRWC had operated with a contract from Red Deer F&W that paid $1, annually, but there were no province-wide regulations, guidelines, or standards. Rules were decided by the officer and biologist in charge of the Red Deer office and often differed from wildlife rehab facilities that began to open elsewhere in the province. This all led to confusion and conflict between F&W and rehabbers.

    Duck with bandage on body

    2000 to 2002

    In 2000, a committee of the AWRA met with the provincial government to ask for provincially standardized permits, minimum standards, and a better working relationship with F&W. A working committee composed of AWRA (including Carol) and F&W was approved and the work began to set down standards, an inspection check list, a facility plan template, and permit application. F&W and Alberta’s wildlife rehabbers began to understand each other, but it wasn’t an easy task.

    Wetland being viewed from a canoe

    2003 to 2005

    Through a great deal of hard work and a growing number of supporters, the debt was brought down from $443,000 to $150,000. 

    Border Paving logo

    2003 to 2005

    The remaining outstanding debt of $150,000 was covered as a short-term loan by a local businessman and the pressure of the foreclosure ended. When the time came to pay the loan, Border Paving stepped in to take over the mortgage.

    Woman educating school children with owl

    2003 to 2005

    Patient load continued to increase along with requests for education programs.

    Fox sitting in tall grass

    2003 to 2005

    The government working committee hit some difficult times as some senior members of F&W attempted to restrict 22 species from rehab and refused to approve the standards that had been developed by the committee. Carol became the spokesperson for the group and negotiations began again.

    Deer fawn resting on ground

    2003 to 2005

    Government restrictions drove MRWC to be creative in rehabilitating orphaned wildlife. They were told to either return an orphaned fawn back to the wild or to give it to a game farm. They were too young to return to the wild by themselves and a game farm went against the mandate of returning healthy animals back into appropriate habitats. 

    Newborn robins in nest

    2003 to 2005

    MWRC had already learned that orphaned birds such as owls, hawks, robins, bluebirds, and tree swallows would take on orphans placed into their nests. A volunteer noticed a newly orphaned fawn in her yard that was quickly adopted by another nursing doe. This gave MRWC the idea of fostering mammals.

    Woman carrying deer fawn to wire fence

    2003 to 2005

    Over the next few years, they began to perfect methods to foster fawns and see if other species such as fox, skunks, and moose would do the same and create an alternative to raising them in captivity. Game farms were later restricted from accepting wild deer fawns. 

    Young women volunteering at wildlife centre

    2006 to 2012

    Things took a new turn for MRWC when the idea of unpaid staff was introduced in 2006. Accepting international volunteers as summer staff increased the workforce while reducing operational costs. There was a steep learning curve to develop protocols to guide and teach 15 young people each summer, but the benefits outweighed the work.

    Wetland with birds taking off

    2006 to 2012

    Just as things were really improving, the quarter section of land to the south, that had been virtually untouched in the years MRWC had been on their land, came up for sale. Panic set in when it was learned that an offer had been put on the land from a group who planned to use it to run recreational motorized vehicles. The owner of the land said she preferred MRWC to own it and would give us a little time to find the funds.

    Blackbird on wetland

    2006 to 2012

    MRWC turned to the media and in a short amount of time had raised $100,000 in cash and the balance in “no interest” loans from 2 individuals. They then focused on ways to pay off both the original piece of land and this new quarter.

    Moose walking in trees

    2006 to 2012

    A couple of years later, the west quarter section of land came up for sale and an offer from a group of oil men to turn it into a shooting range was tendered. Border Paving once again stepped forward to lend the funds to purchase the land. The interest is paid annually with a tax receipt, so no interest is accruing on the loan. TD Canada Trust donated $45,000 towards the new property and the owner took $50,000 off the price as a tax receipt. Both gifts lowered the mortgage needed.

    Aerial view of wildlife centre building and wetland

    2006 to 2012

    The MRWC and its surrounding wetland and forest were safe from development and MRWC had more property to carry out operations.

    Blad eagle receiving medical treatment

    2006 to 2012

    Committee negotiations continued with Fish and Wildlife but this time with a less confrontational atmosphere. Progress was being made.

    Carol and Judy presenting at a conference

    2006 to 2012

    After trying the fostering method on more deer, and an increasing number of birds, fox, coyote, skunks, squirrels, and moose, MRWC began to share the idea. Carol and staff member, Judy Boyd, began to present papers at international wildlife conferences.

    Fawn with markings

    2006 to 2012

    Most people were very receptive to the idea and excited to try it, but numerous questions arose from some rehabbers and F&W. This began 5 years of formal research to verify the method and set down protocols and guidelines. Tracking monitors were placed on deer and moose and under the skin of others, like coyote. The animals were tracked after release with almost 100% success.

    Ceiling of building leaking from rainfall

    2006 to 2012

    The physical infrastructure of MRWC was beginning to crumble and staff began to look at renovating ideas for the building.

    Roof broken in raptor cage

    2006 to 2012

    A heavy snow load severely damaged the eagle compound, killing two eagles when the roof caved in. Other cages also began to show their age.

    Exterior of building in disrepair

    2006 to 2012

    The facility was crumbling and both cages and wildlife hospital would need to be replaced. Fund raising began but moved very slowly.

    City hall buillding in Red Deer

    2013 to 2020

    The City of Red Deer began providing MRWC with an annual payment of $25,000 for the work done to help injured wildlife, assist with wildlife conflict issues, and provide education to the City.

    Black bear cub

    2013 to 2020

    13 years after the working committee with F&W had been formed, the goals were nearly met. Only 5 restricted species remained when the talks stalled. A new government came into power in Alberta and the Committee was not a priority. 

    Alberta Environment and Parks logo on white truck

    2013 to 2020

    Steps toward creating a new committee began in late 2017. Due to changes within the government, the committee now was with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) in place of F&W. This time the committee consisted of members of AEP and a representative from each wildlife rehabilitation centre in the province.

    Skunk under rocky outcrop

    2013 to 2020

    F&W restructured the job descriptions for their officers and biologists and neither they nor Alberta Animal Services wanted to deal with problem wildlife in the Red Deer area. This left people with wildlife-human conflict concerns and nowhere to turn. 

    Woman digging in ground for animal

    2013 to 2020

    MRWC hired a staff member to fill this gap. She now responds to approximately 550 conflict calls annually dealing with fox, ground squirrels, bats, skunks, pigeons, snakes, and more.

    Childrens playground at wildlife centre

    2013 to 2020

    In 2018 MRWC was awarded funding to construct a wildlife homes playground in front of the main building. The old playground had been tremendously popular with visiting schools. This new playground has 4 structures for children to play in while learning the importance of leaving space for wildlife to live. It includes a giant owl nest, beaver lodge, fox den, and bird box.

    Female interns at wildlife centre

    2013 to 2020

    The international volunteer program encountered some difficulties so the decision was made in 2019 to create an intern program. It would be like the previous one, but with more emphasis on serious students wanting to learn and complete a structured course.

    Front entrance of new widlife hospital

    2013 to 2020

    Funding from hundreds of donors and major supporters, Ruth and Dorothy Bower, made it possible to complete the new wildlife hospital in 2020.

    Woman wearing face mask with wildlife pattern

    2013 to 2020

    The Covid-19 crisis of 2020 brought yet another boulder in the road. Funding from tourism, education programs, and the scheduled casino was now gone and only 2 of the 8 interns were able to come to live and work onsite.

    Architectural rendering of raptor cage

    2013 to 2020

    Fundraising continues for a new raptor compound to replace the crumbling old cages. The compound will see 7 cages under one metal roof and is designed for durability and a very long life.

  • MRWC Leadership

    Full Time Staff

    • Carol Kelly profile image Carol Kelly Executive Director
    • Erin Young profile image Erin Young Education Coordinator
    • Todd Kelly profile image Todd Kelly Facility Manager
    • Gwenevere Marshall profile image Gwenevere Marshall Wildlife Conflict Specialist
    • Julie Lay profile image Julie Lay Financial Administrator
    • Lil Duperron profile image Lil Duperron Drayton Valley First Aid Station
  • Seasonal Staff

    • Judsy Boyd profile image Judy Boyd Fostering Researcher
    • Brittany Blundell profile image Brittany Blundell Wildlife Hospital Coordinator
    • Emma Glover profile image Emma Glover Wildlife Hospital & Education Assistant
  • Board of Directors

    • Liana Shaw President
    • Len Parsons Vice President
    • Sharon Bright Secretary/Vice President
    • Sharon MacPherson Director
    • Tim Battle Director
    • Stan Masters Director
    • Linda McLevin Director
    • Judy Boyd Recording Secretary
    • Carol Kelly Ex-Officio
  • Our Friends and Colleagues