Volunteer Soars with Wild Ontario

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Samantha “Sam” Manner works as volunteer Team Leader for the Wild Ontario program in the city of Guelph, where she is also attending university. Currently, Sam is working towards her Bachelor of Science. Her major is animal biology and her minor is in nutrition. Her future plans include either to attend the Ontario Veterinary College or to “work in the field of animal behaviour and welfare”. Although Sam has a very busy student life, she is still able to volunteer with the Wild Ontario program at least 4 times a week! Part of why Sam finds volunteering so rewarding is that she gets to educate the public while working with her team at Wild Ontario.

“I manage the daily health, training, and nutrition of a non-releasable American Kestrel, named Artemis, while also overseeing three of her other handlers. With our ten non-releasable birds of prey, Wild Ontario travels across the province delivering educational programs to the public on a variety of topics ranging from: ornithology, [the study of birds] ecology, conservation and stewardship.”

Artemis is considered to be “non-releasable”, which means that she will never be able to live in the wild. Now, with the help of Sam and her other handlers, she “is serving as an ambassador for her species through her story.” Sam relates Artemis’ story below:

“Artemis is a 5 year old female American Kestrel, the smallest falcon species in North America. Unfortunately, Artemis was taken from the wild at a young age and was likely being kept as a pet by someone. Housing wildlife without proper licensing is illegal. As a consequence of people taking her from the wild, she did not get the opportunity to learn the skills she would need to survive in the wild. In 2009, Artemis was surrendered to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Here, they do tests to determine the bird’s fear of humans. Artemis was not afraid of humans and willingly took food from [them], which means it would be dangerous for her and for humans if she was released back to the wild.”

Sam has a few favourite things about volunteering with Wild Ontario and they involve working with others in the program as well as with the public. She tells us that, “One of my favourite things is working with my team towards a training goal for either the bird or the handler and seeing all that hard work come to fruition. At the programs we deliver, one of my favourite things is sharing information about the birds with members of the public and having them get really excited and wanting to share what they learned with all of their family and friends.”

For anyone who is interested in getting involved with Wild Ontario, Sam advises that it is a “big-time commitment”. Potential volunteers should be mindful that they will be required to dedicate a certain amount of their time to the program. If you wish to apply, you should either live in Guelph, Ontario or “have the ability to travel to Guelph at least 4 times a week.” The volunteer application and more information about the program can be found on their website, www.ourwildontario.ca .