Hope Swinimer knew it was time to leave her home on Winnies Way in the tiny community of Seaforth, Halifax County, when she found a dead pigeon on her doorstep, torn with birdshot. A note wrapped around the little body like a shroud read, in jagged scribble: this. had known, five years earlier, it was time to move from her home in Eastern Passage when she realized her budding wildlife rehabilitation centre would only be taking on more patients. Outdoor cages began to creep inside as the guest room became a nursery. The rehab was growing and Swinimer needed a wilder place for the animals. She picked up and moved to Seaforth, where houses and farms are spattered along the Eastern Shore and the hills run down to the ocean.
ANNUAL OPEN HOUSE AUG. isn a little critter out there someone doesn hate. bought the house on Winnies Way, freer, better for the animals. Five years of growth later, the cramped feeling returned. Swinimer will try to rehabilitate any bird or beast brought to her doorstep, and this clashed with the rural sensibilities of some of her neighbours. She decided she needed space when someone, Swinimer never found out who, left the pigeon corpse.
As it happened, a nearby farm Swinimer had tried to buy when she first came to Seaforth went on the market. canada goose women She made an offer, and now she runs the Hope for Wildlife Society on four hectares of peaceful and remote land.
Swinimer is energetic, her sentences punctuated with gasping laughs. She almost always moving, naturally restless, never in repose. A squirming, hopping woman with piercing blue eyes crinkled at the corners. Swinimer is almost always smiling. on days she doesn have to. These are few; her tasks are many.
The farm two red buildings, a white house, a few wire enclosed bird pens, and a sprawling, fenced run for deer lies on a south facing hill, looking down at the Atlantic. Up the hill, past a roiling, squawking swarm of ducks, geese and peacocks, past a chain link enclosure that home to fat and serene Butterball, the groundhog, stands Swinimer white house.
Billy Joe the Canada Goose walks the yard at the Hope for Wildlife property in Seaforth while a tour is conducted in the background in late spring. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff)
It a grey day and cold blows over the lake speckled with birds. The house is old, as old as the rest of the farm, and the paint curls back from the grey wood siding. The cold seeps inside through the old farmhouse tired boards, but gets no further than the corners, thanks to the pellet stove radiating warmth.
Swinimer paces back and forth when on the phone. Right now, phone to her ear, she doing half laps of the kitchen.
People from all around Nova Scotia call Swinimer often, she says, after the Department of Natural Resources sends them her way. This time it raccoons. They come every night, says the woman over the phone. The neighbours feed them because they so cute.
Swinimer listens, speaks. Try rubbing castor oil on your back deck. It gums up their paws; they find the smell disgusting. Play music with thudding bass on a radio overnight. It doesn have to be loud enough to wake the neighbours. Shine a light in their ringed faces.
Swinimer pauses, smiles: not what you wanted to hear, was it? says kind but ignorant people often think of catch and release when nature creeps too close. At this time of the year, when the morning dew freezes and snow blows slowly south, catching the raccoons in a live trap and releasing them somewhere wilder and with less deliciously plump garbage bags, though seemingly an act of benevolence, would kill them almost as surely as a cake of poison or a bullet.
Without enough time to secure a source of food before the long freeze, and with local, established and territorial raccoons on their autumnal guard, transported raccoons will freeze or starve.
Swinimer urges the woman to scare the raccoons without uprooting them. me back and tell me how it goes. the phone on the kitchen table, Swinimer kneels down. Below her, on a worn dog bed pushed close to the softly hissing stove, lies a fox. Eyes closed and orange fur matted,the fox breath is quick and shallow. The diagnosis is head trauma from some unknown source. Swinimer strokes its fur, then gently lifts the fox and, with some difficulty, uncurls its legs, stiff as if from premature rigor mortis.
Little reaction, a twitch. She pushes its snout into a red clay bowl with a mixture of soft brown cat food and Boost, a supplement drink. The fox blows bubbles in the soup, coughing softly. It starts to lick without opening its orange eyelids. forgotten how to chew. the fox, named Susie, starts to show signs of recognizing its surroundings Swinimer says she can even be sure Susie can see or hear she might make it in the wild.
Swinimer carries the fox outside onto the grass and sets her down on four black mitten paws.
The fox toddles back and forth like a numb drunk, waving her small orange head slowly around, staring at nothing in particular. Swinimer will find out if this is the confused behaviour of a wild animal with partially deadened senses or the randomly firing synapses of near brain death when the results of a blood test come back in two weeks. Carrying Susie back into the house, Swinimer is almost resigned.
I don take a salary, says Swinimer of money raised for Hope for Wildlife. don take a penny and I never will. against the back of the molting house is a wood framed hutch with chicken wire. Grumpy at being woken up, a long, sleek animal with brown fur and a cream coloured face pops out of a wooden box, yowling and chittering. Just as quickly, it gone.
One of Swinimer roommates, Gretel is a pine marten, the curious and vocal cousin of the wolverine and the weasel. A tunnel leads from Gretel hutch to the warmth of the white house, where she has free range. steals socks, says Swinimer. measuring cups. November flies by, the mud freezes. The fowl beside the barn don seem to mind, honking and screeching through cold fog.
Outside a red building called the education centre, home to animals too injured or tame to thrive anywhere but in captivity, stand two volunteers wearing festive sparkling headbands topped with bobbing Christmas tree ornaments. Volunteers walk all around the farm, fading in and out of the fog, in preparation for today event. Hope for Wildlife is one of the many stops for Seaside Christmas, an event put on by a tourism association along the Eastern Shore.
Inside, Christmas music plays softly so as to not scare the animals. Swinimer spends the morning and afternoon talking to guests as they trickle in, telling different animal stories.
Oliver Twist, a barred owl, is an educational animal that a permanent resident at Hope for Wildlife and cannot be released because it lost a wing and has vision in only one eye. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff)
People alternately reach out to and cringe from bronze and gold Cornelius, the metre long corn snake. A blond boy in a hockey jacket befriends a yellow parrot named Topaz, who is twice the boy age. Normand, the one winged kestrel, pulls apart the body of a mouse, spreading flayed muscle and grey intestines across the surface of a flat rock until it looks like a sacrificial altar.
Many guests mention the Hope for Wildlife TV show. One woman tells Swinimer her family watches the show Filming for the fifth season began this past summer. Swinimer admits the show is little hammed up, but it brings money into the rehab centre and children from all over the country write letters asking about the animals. www.canadagoose2014.top/ A volunteer tells me of meeting people in South Africa who first heard of Nova Scotia on the show, which airs in more than 20 countries.
There are wildlife rehabs as near as New Brunswick and as far away as Australia, where colourful songbirds and small macropods, a type of marsupial whose largest member is the kangaroo, are menaced by, among other things, house cats.
Cats are a huge killer of small wildlife, so Swinimer cat Taffy, orange and languid lives indoors. (Swinimer calls Taffy, a tom, calling him Taffy, who stoically shares the house with Gretel, the irate pine marten, says nothing one way or the other.)
In a lull between waves of visitors, Swinimer and the volunteers form a crescent around one of the televisions playing old episodes of the show. An adult brown bear the size of a dresser lies sedated on a metal table; a rubber gloved hand peels bloated, marble sized ticks from its half closed eyelids. The scene moves to men with blurred out faces carrying a bear sized box away.
Swinimer, who chased the bear through the forest with a net herself, says DNR blames her for giving the bear distemper. Swinimer disagrees.