The Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) is well-known to Bulkley Valley residents for its work in rehabilitating and rewilding animals, particularly bears.
But what they do goes well beyond that very important function with significant contributions to scientific research and rehabiliation and rewilding techniques that are used around the world.
Now founders and operators Angelika and Peter Langen have been honoured for their work with a BC Achievement Community Award.
“That was quite a surprise, I had no idea,” Angelika said. “Jennifer Larson out of Stewart had nominated us for it, then she reached out to our crew and asked for support, so they got a whole bunch of people together to write support letters and statements and I got a call a couple of weeks ago from somebody from down south telling me we had been chosen for this award and I no clue. I feel very special.”
For years now, the Langens have been working with researchers who use the animals while they are residing at the shelter to conduct sometimes life-saving research.
For example, on certain stretches of highway, moose were experiencing high mortality rates. A researcher from the University of Northern British Columbia posited that on those stretches there was food that was particularly attractive to the animals. He tested the hypothesis with moose at NLWS and the result allowed the province to drastically reduce mortality.
“In the end, they decided if they would cut on those sides of the road, they should be able to avoid these collisions and they did that and it dropped by 95 per cent in the first year,” Angelika said.
They also experimented with Teflon pads to help keep moose out of fenced areas on railroad properties.
“When the moose step on these Teflon pads, they backtrack right away, they don’t like standing on them, so we’re hoping when those Teflon pads are put in the entrances of those fenced areas that they no longer go in there.”
And they have contributed greatly to the development of milk formulas by partnering with milk manufactures to produce products that are more suitable for wild animals.
“For instance, we found moose milk has almost no lactose so when you’re feeding a moose cow’s milk or goat’s milk it gets way too much lactose and has similar reactions as a human would that is lactose intolerant,” Angelika explained.
They have also worked with foreign governments to get rewilding programs going in other countries such as Vietnam and Greece.
Other jurisdictions are also anxiously awaiting the results of another NLWS first, their grizzly bear rewilding program.
“We have Montana, Yukon and Alberta and Yukon watching what we’re doing here and once this program has shown the success we’re hoping it will show, then hopefully those provinces and countries will pick up rewilding of grizzly bears as well,” Angelika said.
“We’re the only ones that rehab grizzlies. The idea is to prove that these bears are making it out there. We have some feedback for the first year, what we’re needing now is long-term results.”
“Angelika and Peter have dedicated their lives to wildlife rehabilitation, public education and ongoing research for the betterment of both the wildlife and the public,” said the BC Achievement Foundation in announcing the honour. “Their work benefits not just their local community of Smithers, but the entire province and beyond.”