Environment | Animal Wellfare, Conservation, Sustainability
Living Standards | Education And Learning

Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation

We are committed to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned wildlife. We provide expert advice and education that fosters an appreciation of wildlife.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Matthew Flegault, it would appear, is one well organized 10-year old – he’s clicking on to photographs he knows so well they’re almost memorized. Matthew has adopted one young eagle (an asked-for Christmas present) injured faraway in the Northwest Territories when very young. It’s part of services offered by WestJet transporting injured wildlife to the Madden facilities of the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC). He refers to another image of a big-eyed downy fluffed sort of bird with enormous yellow feet that eagles apparently grow into.  The whole history, he tells me, is on their Facebook page…

Matthew’s family subscribe to their monthly newspaper – and where he first read about helping by adopting an animal. He and his family have fundraised, collecting bottles. He wants to volunteer, although that’ll be a few years yet until he’s well into his teens (because of liability issues that face many such facilities these days).

His older sister Ariane busks summertime at Bearspaw Farmers Market; the money goes towards buying towels and similar, useful items – all three siblings collect branches that will be used in rehab cages for natural perch settings.

Listening to them as they wander in and out, Matthew chatting away, makes reporter Pam Asheton wonder how typical, representative of young people these days these three are – they’ve even noticed a housing development up the road has made local foxes move out, before exclaiming about a real experience with a barn owl. That Matthew values that adoption certificate, will remember his Christmas present, is just so obvious.

Source: Pam Asheton (Feb 13, 2015): Cochrane Times: LIFE – Youth working to save wildlife

Alberta is home to some of the most majestic and iconic animals associated with North America. Animals native to Alberta include the bald eagle, the beaver, the big horn sheep, the bison, the blue jay, the Canada Goose, the lynx, the caribou, the cougar, the flying squirrel, the great blue heron, the grizzly bear, the monarch butterfly, the moose, the common loon, the peregrine falcon, the porcupine, the pronghorn, the red fox, the great horned and snowy owl, the striped skunk, the white-tailed deer and the gray wolf, just to name a few.

We believe in cultivating strong co-existence between Albertans and wildlife animals. 95% of animals are injured or orphaned due to human activities. The most common causes of injury are window strikes, vehicle collision, hitting power lines, barbed wire, fishing line entanglement or ingestion, domestic cat and dog attacks, and exposure to toxins. Often wildlife is orphaned by needless rescuing of babies who should have been left where they were.

Each year, the demand for our services increases. In 2018, AIWC:

  • Treated 1,066 wild animals and helped hundreds more by assisting members of the public with wildlife-related issues, educating Albertans about natural wildlife behaviours and how best to live alongside our wildlife; and
  • Answered more than 4,100 wildlife related calls, providing assistance and information to support the wellbeing, and, in some cases, the survival of animals.

Our Impact

What We Do

Since 1993, the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) has been a champion for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Accredited through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, AIWC serves the needs of Alberta’s diverse wildlife in Calgary and southern Alberta. As a registered charity, AIWC relies on charitable donations and dedicated volunteers to support the more than 1,000 varied animals in need of care every year. AIWC welcomes Alberta’s injured, orphaned, and oiled wildlife, small and large, from hummingbirds to moose calves.

Our Vision
Preserving the legacy of wildlife.

Our Mission
AIWC is committed to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned wildlife. We provide expert advice and education that fosters an appreciation of wildlife.

Once animals arrive at AIWC they are fully examined to determine the extent of their injuries. Further testing is often required, such as blood and/or fecal sampling, and radiograph diagnostics. With the completion of our surgical suite in 2009, patients are no longer transported to an off-site clinic for procedures which greatly reduces their stress levels.

At the clinic, our team provide treatment and supportive care to the wildlife patients. Each patient’s diet varies, being as close as possible to its natural diet. In the case of orphaned animals, they must be taught to forage or hunt for their own food as they develop.

As an animal progresses, gaining strength, and injuries healing, he/she will be moved into larger enclosures and finally be moved into an outdoor enclosure. When housed outside, the animal can properly prepare for release back into the wild by conditioning his/her body and acclimatizing to the weather. Once an animal is strong enough, volunteers often get the opportunity to release the animal back into his/her natural habitat. When possible and where safe to do so, we release the animal back to where he/she was found. If not possible, an appropriate habitat will be chosen to provide each animal with the greatest chance of survival. 

Our Programs

How We Do It

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue: 
Our wildlife hospital, once a church in Didsbury, Alberta, is now a clinic with a surgical suite, laboratory, x-ray room, and various care units. Outdoor enclosures support the rehabilitative cycle and include two large flight-conditioning spaces for raptors, five songbird enclosures, a pasture and corral for young deer and moose, a shorebird enclosure, aquatic bird building, outdoor aquatic mammal enclosure, two outdoor waterfowl enclosures, two aerial insectivore enclosures, and four mammal enclosures.

Primarily, animals are rescued by our team of trained volunteers or by members of the public and then admitted to our centre. AIWC is an accredited vet hospital through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) and upon arrival animals are left to rest for a short time and then are fully examined my members of staff.

All wildlife rehabilitation is performed on site at our 9.69-acre property NW of Airdrie. We are permitted through the provincial and federal governments to intake and care for wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitation is a relatively new field of animal care, becoming more prominent in the past 20-30 years. As such, we are constantly striving to improve protocols and methods of rehabilitation. Staff attend workshops, conferences, and collaborate with other wildlife rehabilitation centres across the world in order to ensure we are providing the best care possible to the animals entrusted into our care.

Wildlife Education Program:

We have a shared responsibility to wildlife.
For as long as there have been people, there have been dangers to our wildlife. Each Albertan, young and old, plays an important role in the proactive understanding and reactive care of our wildlife. Each one of us has a responsibility to do something to support our wildlife population.

We will continue to advocate for the health of our wildlife.
Our primary mandate will always be to provide support and readiness to injured, orphaned or oiled wildlife animals. We believe in a community approach to taking the best care possible to animals that live and play in the same places we do.

We believe every Albertan should be a stakeholder in the care of wellbeing of our wildlife animals.
To ensure future generations of Albertans can enjoy our wildlife landscape, we encourage Albertans to:

  • Appreciate and co-exist with nature and wildlife
  • Be mindful of their surroundings and foster safe spaces for wildlife to graze, breed and thrive
  • Encourage interconnectedness with nature
  • Understand the issue affecting Alberta’s conservation initiatives

Caring isn’t enough. We must take action.
Every animal is deserving of the beauty Alberta has to offer, and this includes a safe, open environment free of human hazards. And we, as Albertans, have a responsibility to foster these opportunities through awareness and participation in conservation-minded conversation and actions. Our wildlife should be a continued source of pride for all Albertans.

We believe in developing awareness through education.
Through outreach programming, we’re working to creating strong co-existence between Albertans and wildlife animals. In 2018, our education team provided wildlife education to more than 4,300 members of the public.

We want children to build a strong relationship with nature.
Our actions impact the environment and its wildlife. We encourage children to respect the environment around them by inspiring a passion for conservation and sustainability. We know that children and youth who develop an early understanding of their relationship with nature and wildlife become life-long advocates for wildlife, champions for the care, protection and health of wild animals.

We are advocates for encouraging environmental stewardship in the next generation.
By educating children about nature and environmental awareness, we are informing Albertans of how their actions impact the environment and to think on a larger, provincial scale.

It all comes down to this:

“We don’t own the earth. We are the earth’s caretakers. We take care of it and all the things on it. And when we’re done with it, it should be left better than we found it.” ― Katherine Hannigan, author

Our Requests

What You Can Do

Each year the demand for our services grows, and as a non-profit organization we rely solely on our own fundraising to provide care for the over 1,000 wild animals admitted each year. There are many different ways you can support AIWC and help us care for our wildlife patients:

12 ways you can support our efforts:

Every dollar counts, and we truly appreciate the support from the communities we serve. Thank you for enabling us to continue providing care for wild animals in need.

Volunteer:  AIWC depends on an army of dedicated and passionate volunteers to assist the staff members with the operation of our wildlife hospital. Volunteering is a truly rewarding experience, and even tasks such as floor-mopping are more enjoyable when you know you’re helping wildlife and are surrounded by such magnificent creatures.

Help is needed in various roles and at various times of year. Spring and summer are our “peak” seasons, however, we rely heavily on 100+ active volunteers year round to keep our centre operating. Visit AIWC: Volunteer for more information on volunteering at our centre.


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Holly Lillie - Executive Director

Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation


Charitable Number: 140416140RR0001

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