She came from Vancouver to Smithers to volunteer for a year. That year has now ended.
Brooke Hollis headed back to the Lower Mainland on Monday. Before she left Smithers, Hollis reflected on her time at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS).
“Giving back to the Earth — the Earth gives us so many things that we take for granted. It’s really nice for me to give back essentially what it gives us,” she said.
Hollis took a year off from post-secondary school to come volunteer because it’s something that she wants to pursue in the future and is something she holds close to her heart.
“I dedicated a year of my life to Northern Lights and it’s been quite the experience for me with gaining all of the education and knowledge that comes with everything like learning bear behavior, moose behavior — it’s been so much knowledge that I’ve gained from this experience and I feel a lot more confident with myself. It’s been a big step for me,” she said.
The NLWS located near Smithers survives off donations. They provide young injured and orphaned wildlife with a safe and healthy environment to mature into adulthood, upon which they are released back to the wild.
For Hollis, working with all the variety of animals was the best part.
“The bears, the moose — I got to raise three baby owls; there’s been flying squires that came to us,“ she said. “I got to work with a number of bears alongside my co-volunteer Nicole. We were kind of a team together. We got to take care of 13 black bears that we called our own.”
Beside the bears came the moose calves that spent time in an RCMP detainment yard before heading to the NLWS.
“I’ve been recently taking care of six moose calves and that’s been a blast; it’s been really awesome,” Hollis stated.
She added every time they would feed the moose or bears, they’d have to wear gloves and coveralls.
“It was very interesting, especially with the moose. We had to wear coveralls because they’re very susceptible to infection and bacteria,” she explained.
But, it hasn’t all been peachy for Hollis. She stated when a family of bears got sick and one of them died, it was emotional.
“We had lost a bear that was in my care. One day I was going to go feed them and clean them just like every other day and I noticed something was really off with them. They were just really immobile and couldn’t really move and so I knew something was very wrong. I called Angelika — she’s the co-founder of Northern Lights — and she brought them down in to a quarantine enclosure. I couldn’t really sleep that night. One of them just passed; she just couldn’t make it. It was really hard for me,” Hollis explained with raw emotion.
That bear’s name was Huck. He stayed in quarantine for about two weeks before his death.
From living in the city to coming up north, it was a big change for Hollis.
“When I got out of the airport, the first thing I noticed was that everybody drives really slow compared to Vancouver. Just a whole dynamic of people, like everybody’s really welcoming and thoughtful, always saying hi, hello,” she said.
Hollis stocked up on winter gear, preparing for a harsh winter with plenty of snow.
“When I found out that I was coming, I was super nervous about winter and I bought everything that I thought I would need like big boots, big winter coat, mittens, the whole nine yards. And then winter came around and I guess Smithers had a very weird winter this year. I was expecting feet of snow and there really wasn’t much,” she said.
Hollis is heading to a post-secondary school in the fall to major in biology and hopes to volunteer in the Lower Mainland and expand on what she wants to do specifically in her career.
“Working with the wildlife has been awesome and I really enjoyed it. You bring in really compromised animals and you put your whole in to helping them survive. You see them sick or unhappy or confused or lonely. With just time and love and care, you can watch them flourish and releasing them back into the wild is the biggest reward ever,” she said.