Northern Light's Wildlife Society

Northern Lights

Wildlife Society


By Michelle Brunet

Angelika Langen says she and her husband Peter were inspired to start the Northern Lights Wildlife Society after she read a newspaper article. It described how a mother moose had been fatally struck by a train, and that her babies had to be killed because there was no facility to care for them.

"Given that the two of us have a background working in zoos [in Germany], we felt that in situations like this we could help," says Langen. "So we got some credentials together and took them to the Ministry, thinking they’d be delighted to see us. To our big surprise they weren’t delighted at all. So from there we pursued this more earnestly and it took us four years to finally get the first permit to start the shelter."

That was in 1989 when the Langens first started running the refuge for orphaned and injured wildlife. Today they accept all animals and birds from across British Columbia, but specialize in moose, deer and bear (they are the first to care for Grizzlies), as shelters able to provide refuge to larger mammals are less common in the province.

Throughout the 90s, the Langens operated their shelter part time and funded it themselves. But their services became so popular that they had a choice—either restrict the number of animals they cared for or transform it into a full time endeavour.

They opted for the latter and formed the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in 2001; a year later it was a registered charity. Langen says there are numerous advantages for having charitable status. "Being a charity opens those doors that you can ask for funding from foundations and that allowed us to build better facilities and so on," she says. "It just opened a whole new opportunity of funding for us that we wouldn’t have had if we weren’t a registered charity." Langen adds that she and her husband like the fact that as a registered charity they are held accountable by guidelines that detail how they can spend funds, so that the bulk goes directly to the cause.

While grants from foundations tend to be project-specific, Northern Lights still needs funds for daily operational costs, such as food, medical supplies and transportation for rescues and releases back to the wild. For this, they rely on the generosity of the public via donations and memberships.

Present day, Northern Lights being a "full time endeavour" for the Langens and three volunteers may be an understatement. As Langen chats with HobbyFirm, she describes the next day’s agenda: they would be driving some bears more than 1,000 km away to release them back to the wild, while others stayed behind to care, all day, for the moose and bears staying at the shelter; they were also on call to pick up some moose being rescued 250 km away.

But the long hours, day after day, are worth it for Langen. "I think the overall reward is that we are able to make a difference," she says. "We are able to offset the human impact on our environment a little bit by offering animals, that otherwise wouldn’t survive, a second chance…Going out yesterday was a long, long day, but when we opened those doors and let those bears out and they ran away [back into their natural habitat]—that is the biggest reward you can get."

One valuable piece of advice that Langen has for starting a charitable organization is to do so with the long term in mind. This means devoting to a cause you are wholeheartedly passionate about and ensuring you are able to maintain it into the future, especially when it offers services that a community or region becomes reliant on.

"You need to take care of yourself in order to keep your charity healthy," she says. "If you don’t take care of yourself and you burn out, then that’s detrimental to the charity. So involving others, sharing the burden and thinking about succession (who is going to take over when you get older), those kinds of things are really important if you really want this to work."


LINKS:  |   Northern Lights WIldlife Society



Story appears in

HobbyFirm Magazine

Volume 1., Issue 2


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