Need a cute fix? Meet the stars at Critter Care Wildlife Society

These cute animals have become quite famous on social media and it's starting to pay off

They're cute, they're lovable and they're very photogenic.

If you haven’t noticed yet, the animals at Critter Care Wildlife Society are kind of a big deal. They’ve become social media stars.

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The videos of what they get up to at the centre are viewed, liked, and shared by thousands.

But what you might not know is how much money it costs to look after the little critters and run the centre.

In any given year the centre will care for between 3000 and 4000 native mammals. It’s currently housing 300.

There are bears, otters, raccoons, coyotes, fawns, chipmunks, squirrels, beavers, skunks, minks, marmots, weasels and rabbits, and they all require special care.

A raccoon, while in care, can eat its way through $1,500 worth of food. That’s just one raccoon.  Imagine what a bear would eat.

Founder and executive director of the not-for-profit organisation Gail Martin said this year they needed to fundraise about $1 million.

“It’s a big operation,” she said.

Martin said there was a long list of costs, from general care of the animals, to medical supplies, syringes for feeding, bedding, specie specific formula – which can cost $249 a bucket, the upkeep and building of enclosures and food.

The Society’s annual Open House this weekend is hoped to raise anywhere between $40,000 to $50,000 for the animals.

But in today’s day and age, having cute animals that are social media sensations is starting to help too. Martin said Facebook and Instagram were beginning to play a key role in helping the centre support the animals.

Assistant executive director Winona Reinsma, who’s leading the current social media push, said she reignited Instagram as a bit of an experiment.

The Instagram @critter_care_wildlife page had been dormant since December 2017, when the previous moderator left, so Reinsma thought it was time to get the ball rolling again.

“Social media isn’t our number one focus, but we have always had a presence,” she said.

“I started using the Instagram page again about three weeks ago, out of interest of getting more sponsors.

“It’s a combination of getting our name out there, raising awareness and letting people know what’s happening with our wildlife.”

In late June, something special happened. Twin bear cubs arrived at the centre from North Vancouver.

When the little bears, named River and Seymour, made their social media debut, Vancouverites fell in love with them.  A video of the cubs playing in their pool was viewed 4,500 times on Facebook and close to 3000 times on Instagram.

After posting the bear videos, the centre received three new community business sponsors. The money they donate goes directly to caring for the cubs.

“We’ve had an incredible response from the public,” Reinsma said.

“The bears have been the driver, then the otters went up and it kind of took off from there.

“It certainly shows the power of social media.”

Orca, the baby otter, is another crowd favourite. A video of her first swim in a bigger pool at the centre has so far been viewed 10,000 times on Facebook and is about to reach 5000 views on Instagram.

Reinsma said she wanted to give people an inside look at the journey of the animals at the centre – from rescue to release.

“We never know what’s coming – but we’re going to keep the social media going,” she said.

Martin, who founded the Society 36 years ago, said the main goal was to keep the community engaged with what was happening with their wildlife. 

“All these animals are our native heritage, we have to protect what we have because what is here today could be gone tomorrow,” she said.

“Basically the animals cost a lot of money – they don’t belong to us, they belong to everyone.

“We really need to public support to keep doing what we’re doing.”

You’ll be able to see the animals this weekend, July 21 and 22, at the Open House from 11am to 4pm.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the bear cubs, but there’ll be plenty of other critters to meet.

Visitors to the Open House will be encouraged to take photos on the day and tag the centre for a chance to win a prize.

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