SUDBURY -- It's feeding time inside the Turtle Pond Wildlife Centre and the residents couldn't be happier.

It's been a year of new challenges and changes for everyone, including the authorized wildlife custodian at Turtle Pond, Gloria Morrissette.

She and her team have been rescuing animals out of the current site for a few years now. They estimate that they've likely seen thousands come and go in the centre's short time operating from the property located in the Greater Sudbury community of Val Caron.

"It's been a very challenging year because of the closure of a local wildlife centre. I focus mainly on turtles and bats and would send everything else to other centres, but because I'm the only one in the north now, I do take in as many as I can and either transfer to other centres or do what I can here," said Morrissette.

Due to COVID-19, she hasn't been able to have as many volunteers at the centre to help as she usually does. This is significant because her centre is 100 per cent volunteer-run and relies on donations from the community.

The next closest centre is Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, which is roughly two and a half hours south from Sudbury, leaving injured wildlife limited options.

Morrissette's in regular contact with other centres and adds they do what they can to help one another out.

"The volunteers have been amazing. The community as a whole has been amazing. I have volunteers who come in and do the animal care, which is critical, I couldn't do it without them," she said.

One of those volunteers is Turtle Pond's veterinarian, Nicole Baran, who works at Sudbury's local cat hospital.

"If it weren't for these centres, these animals would have nowhere to go," said Baran. "It's amazing how much care goes in. It's not just they're in and then they're out, it's sometimes all year-round. The centre is running 365 days a year."

It's been a busy few days for the team, who just returned a pair of baby owlets to a nest thanks to the help from Frank's Family Tree Service.

An arborist scaled a tree in Garson to return the young owls to their parents after the nest had been destroyed.

On Monday, Baran was assessing the animals to let Morrissette know which of the ones were okay for release.

Two turtles will soon be going to their respective homes, in Thessalon and Monetville.

"Every case is so unique and you have to look at them individually. And they may heal at their own speed, turtles being turtles, are slow to heal," said Morrissette.

Intern Celina Hockley has been taking what she's been learning at Turtle Pond and hopes to put it into practice one day herself.

"I've worked with so many raccoons and every time I see a raccoon I just melt all over again," said Hockley.

In the meantime, with spring upon us, they're asking everyone to be careful with young wildlife they may come across. Those babies may not be orphaned.

"We can get moms to reunite with their babies if they're in areas that are not a good location like if they're in someone's boat, someone's trailer; things like that. There are ways we can encourage mom to move her family instead of trapping the mom, relocating her and making orphans," said Morrissette.

Anyone with questions about wildlife they may come across is being asked to call the Turtle Pond Wildlife Centre at 705-691-0433.

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