Annual Report for 2019-20
About the Preserve in 2019-20
The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a non-profit, charitable organization. The Perserve is operated under the full name of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society (YWPOS).
The Yukon Wildlife Preserve will see informed voices that speak for the natural world.
To connect our visitors to the natural world by being a living centre of Yukon’s species.
- Relentlessly pursue the highest standard of animal care;
- Be accessible to all visitors;
- Model respect and teamwork with coworkers, volunteers, and our community; and,
- Treasure the Yukon’s natural world.
Our Board and Committees
The YWPOS Board in 2019-20 included:
Alexandra Tait, President
Shawna Warshawski, 1st VP
Chris Evans, 2nd VP
Eamonn Pinto (joined mid-season)
Dennis Berry, non-voting YG rep (joined mid-season)
Drew MacNeil, non-voting YG rep (joined mid-season)
Helen Booth, non-voting YG rep (departed mid-season)
Darrell March, non-voting YG rep (departed mid-season)
The YWPOS board meets approximately 6 times each year – quarterly meetings on the 3rd Wednesday of July, October, January and April, as well as a couple of special meetings depending on the projects / needs at hand.
The board is responsible for several key committees that provide oversight and support to various aspects of operations. These include:
- Executive Committee – works closely with the Executive Director on a regular basis – meets monthly.
- Animal Care Committee – oversight and support on care and management of the collection – meets monthly to quarterly depending on need.
- Education Committee – assists on education and experience based projects – meets as required.
- Research Committee – reviews research proposals and makes recommendations to the board – meets as required.
Other ad hoc committees and work groups are formed as required to tackle specific projects!
Jake Paleczny, Executive Director/CEO
Randy Hallock, Manager of Outdoor Operations
Dr. Maria Hallock, Veterinarian
Lindsay Caskenette, Manager of Visitor Services
Erin Jamieson, Manager of Education and Programming (joined mid-season)
Breanna Hall, Manager of Education and Programming (departed mid-season)
Having the privilege to sit as the President this past year, enables me to reflect on so many aspects of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and the Operating Society, our Staff and volunteers, our government ambassadors, and our incredible Yukon community. For us, like many of you, this year has been a rollercoaster of both the physical and emotional form: a test of adaptability, perseverance, tenacity, and creativity.
Our plans for the past year included being open year-round, 7-days a week, which proved to be successful, and we are so blessed and honoured to be a winter destination for so many Yukoners and visitors, alike. We also saw immense outpouring of support in the form of donations and sponsorship, without which we cannot operate. We were also actively moving towards a public roll-out of our next 10-year Master Plan which includes upgrades to infrastructure, visitor services, and interpretive experiences. As the winter progressed however, our reality changed, along with the rest of the world. The Staff and Board of Directors made the decision to shutter our doors for a time, while we assessed all our options. With the leadership of our Executive Director, the support of our Board and that of the Yukon government, we emerged with creative solutions to keeping our members, our campers, and our staff safe and remain a coveted destination for members and visitors alike.
Because of the adaptability of our Staff, we have been able to continue to provide you with a place of peace, a place of reflection, a place of exploration, in a time where these places may seem inaccessible. While much of our programs and long-term plans are on hold for the moment, we look forward to continuing to be a favoured destination by all of you.
I am going to take this opportunity to thank again, our incredible Staff who dedicate every day to the animals, the place, and the people; and to our volunteer Board of Directors of which we rely for counsel and guidance. Thank you all for your continued support, and we all look forward to seeing you out at the Preserve throughout the coming months.
President, YWPOS Board of Directors
Executive Director’s Report
For all the right reasons, 2019-20 was a very exciting year! Our team was incredibly busy and boy was it fun. Here’s some of the highlights:
Out with the Old – in with the Future
The year kicked off with a major upgrade to our membership and sales systems, along with a comprehensive pricing change. Front of house staff had long struggled with an outdated system and a pricing structure put into place in 2006. At more than 10 times the visitation, those systems and pricing options weren’t cutting it. While implementing a new system is never easy, it almost immediately eliminated most of the line-ups at the front of house. Long overdue price increases also drove record revenues – a critical step in the long term sustainability of the organization.
Planning for the Future
Meanwhile the Board and management team was working closely with PJA Architects and a team of sub-consultants to craft a vision for the next 15 years of development at the Preserve. PJA and their team represented some of the best landscape planners, business strategists and marketing expertise in our marketplace. They helped bring key concepts and approaches to the table for developing the Preserve’s future. More on that below!
A Big Contribution
This past year also marked a first for the Preserve – a major donation. Steve Smyth and his family donated $25,000, making a significant contribution to the Preserve. Needless to say, we met our fundraising targets for 2019-20! To read more about Steve and his contribution, check out this blog article by Board member Kirk Cameron.
Becoming more Accessible
The Preserve also took delivery of a low floor bus just as Nature Camps kicked off. Prior to that, one of our most common visitor injuries were slips on the older bus’s stairs (despite a seemingly endless number of attempts to make them safet). Not only was a big step for accessibility, it also has great heaters making it (at long last) very comfortable to do tours at colder temperatures!
Moose in the News
And of course it was another exciting year in Animal Care and Wildlife Rehabiltiation with not just one, but two moose coming in from Faro and Watson. Sadly, the little moose from Faro didn’t make it. Fortunately, Watson has thrived and has joined our (growing) herd of famous meese 😉
… And then COVID
Needless to say, 2019-20 didn’t end on a high note. We’ve all faced adversity we couldn’t have anticipated. We’ve cancelled, cut, pivoted, and more… But we have an incredible team here at the Preserve – one that has faced this head-on, ingenuity and positivity. I’m incredibly proud to be able to work with and support the team I have here.
Here’s more on how we’re responding to this crisis.
Thank you for all of your continued support!
Yukon Wildlife Preserve
In 2019-20, the Department of Environment and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society concluded a two-year Operational Funding Agreement. The funding agreement was renewed for another year, up to the end of March, 2021. The agreement provides $732,000 to support the core operations at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for the year, including animal care and facility maintenance.
The Government of Yukon is supporting the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and to complete the master planning process to refine a long term vision for the preserve.
Master Plan Project Update
The Preserve undertook a comprehensive master planning process that started in March 2019 and substantively wrapped up in March 2020. It resulted in:
- A Master Plan Report
- A Business Plan and Financial Planning Tool
- A Brand Blueprint and Marketing Plan
The Preserve is now working with key stakeholders to refine the Master Plan Report. The renewed branding and marketing is now in the process of being implemented.
Master Plan Report
The plan represents a comprehensive plan for development of the Preserve over the next 15+ years. The document included:
- Site and Program Inventory
- Master Plan (including future goals, animal management, iste improvement, interpretation and education and more)
- Improvements to existing facilities/infrastructure
- Phasing and Budget
- Community Engagement
Some of the key results from this work include:
- Enhance animal handling infrastrucure that enables low-stress, safe handling for both animals and staff.
- Enhanced visitor infrastructure, including a new welcome centre and entrance walk, play areas throughout the Preserve, new walking trails, as well as other important amenities.
- New Yukon species and new habitats.
- New infrastructure to support mission based revenue generation.
Working with Zoo Advisors the Preserve identified key areas for enhancing sustainability of the Preserve through on mission revenue generation. The plan aligns with the Master Plan. A sophistacted projection tool will help the Preserve model impacts of different scenarios and revenue generation projects!
Working the Aasman Branding, the Preserve undertook an audit of its audiences and brand position. The results include a brand signature (positioning and our promise in its simplest form), clear audience segments and core messages.
The plan is focused on capturing more of Yukon’s tourists (as this represented the greatest area of growth).
Some of the highlights from the Outdoor Operations Department include:
- Upgraded / fence at AC Building and added apron
- Changed out fence along neighbours (Peter and Dinah) – was still old perimeter fencing and possibly one area where predators still had easy access.
- Installed 2nd cross fence between Mountain Goat cliff habitats.
- Repairs to 2nd MOuntain Goat cliff fence
- Removed old stand-off barrier in front of Mule Deer bucks (old T-bar)
- Finish demo and cleanup of “old chicken house” (beside new haybarn)
- Removed garage door from green shop and cleaned out
- Sorted, painted and organized pipe and wire supplies (there was a lot to do here).
- Demolished and cleaned up old hayshed in the back Elk habitat
- Inventoried buildings / quoted replacement values for insurance value updates.
- Inspected and repaired perimeter fence (a few holes patched but in good condition)
- Fixed muskox cow fence (new posts and wire along the back side after damage from broken trees late last winter).
- Upgrades to goat handling system (new gates and posts).
- Rebuilt cross fence between sheep ewe’s and rams
- Poured concrete pad and moved fuel tanks to Service Area by Garage.
- New fence line separating Ewe’s and Rams (fence will run perpendicular to the road, rather than on a diagonal, minimizing visible fence lines in Female Thinhorn Sheep pasture).
- Plowing snow and sanding, shoveling viewing platforms
- Site garbage collection and disposal
- Upgrades to signs in parking lot
- Griding large amounts of apples, carrots and oranges for animal feed
- Refurbishing chalk board signs
- Repairs to skidoos
- Wiring in reception
- Design eavestrough and roof extensions for feeding stations
- Put up insulators for electric fence extension
- Assisting with immobilized animals
Randy’s crew keeps very busy!
Animal Care Report
Mule Deer: 50
Thinhorn sheep: 35
Rocky Mountain Goats: 29
Arctic fox: 2
Red fox: 2
Total of 181 Animals in Main Collection
(Born July 03, 2019-September 14, 2020)
Rocky mountain goats: 1 (2019)
(Deceased July 03, 2019-September 14, 2020)
Bison: 1 (2020)
Animal Care Committee
The ACC is one of the Preserve’s most active committees – it provides oversight and support on care and management of the Preserve’s collection. The committee meets 4-8 times a year and provides recommendations to the board on a range of topics – including collection plan, animal care policies, aquisition and disposition of animals and more. To find out more or if you have expertise to contribute to this committee, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildlife Rehabilitation Report
Overall, Wildlife Rehabilitation was much busier this summer than last. Highlights include a family of ducks – and of course a young moose!
July 3, 2019 – September 14, 2020
Still in care
/ YWP residents
|Great horn owl||1||1|
|Yellow bellied sapsucker||1|
|Sharp shinned hawk||1|
July 3 2018 – July 3, 2019
Still in care
/ YWP residents
Visitor Services Report
Huge gains (13.0% increase in total revenue for 2019-2020 over previous year) were made in our Little Gift Shop revenue stream over the years while the building space remains the same. Visitor Services staff have been able to capitalize on every bit of space in the shop while still balancing aesthetics and an effective staff/client work space.
A major remerchandising of the front cabin occurred in December including upgraded display and furniture units. This was really well received by both staff and customers and allowed an important freshening of the space and product rotation to encourage sales of existing stock. It also allowed new stock, including some higher-end jewelry from local artists Vanessa with Yukon Wild Furs to be displayed well. Also, new book cases made our increasing and diverse collection of books easily viewable and explorable by visitors.
We saw a significant increase in retail revenue in December as we worked with several local entrepreneurs to bring back the YWP exclusive Community knit toque fundraiser with 8 hats, 4 of which featured muskox qiviut.
The Preserve saw a 2% increase in overall visitation in 2019-2020 from the previous year (2018-2019). Month to month saw on par visitation to the previous year or growth with the exceptions of May, January, and March.
- May typically fluctuates depending on our opening date and that this month is a shoulder season build potential for the tourism market.
- January saw an 8 day closure due to extreme cold temperatures.
- March closure on the 23rd in response to Covid-19 also reduced possible visitation numbers.
- The Preserve came the closest ever to breaking the 5,000 visitors in a month mark by just 86 people!
Visitation tracking by month for 2019-2020 for members versus non-members tells us that between 13.2% (January) and 36.8% (April) of total visitors are member visits.
People like to walk – it’s a great way to experience the Preserve. With that however this year was the first time we offered Guided Bus Tours daily through the winter season. In years previous we offered Guided Bus Tours from October to March only Friday – Sundays.
Visitation through Events
4 major annual events occur which are well established, recognized, anticipated and attended!
- Easter Eggstravaganza 2019 – every year the riddle changes and every year this is one of our not to miss events where we see a lot of membership renewals and strong interest from families across Yukon.
- Run Wild 2019 saw 68 participants and raised over $1,000 for Wildlife Rehabilitation. It also included a special announcement and recognition to major donor – Steven Smyth.
- Yukoner Day 2019 – was our 15th Anniversary celebration. We offered free tours and animal feeding viewing experiences that are always a highlight. This year we included some Education Programming included a few dip netting experiences in the back pond. Alongside our Master Planning process we reached out to our public for input to the Preserve future
- Wild Trick or Treat 2019 – Our fast growing event! This year we added some games and activities along the way while families worked on the scavenger hunt clues. Spooktacular pumpkin feeding with our carnivores are always a treat for humans and animals! Of course a bonfire and (chocolaty) treats await those that make it through!
Education and Programming Report
Swan Haven 2019 School Programming
Early in 2017, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (YWP) and Yukon Wildlife Viewing Program (WVP) signed an agreement for the YWP to develop and deliver experiential, outdoor school programming at the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre in April 2017. Based on a successful 2017 season, the YWP and WVP continued the arrangement in 2018 and 2019.
Between April 8th and May 1st 2019, 678 students participated in outdoor, experiential programs highlighting the importance of early season open water for migrating swans. The Swan Haven program reached 73% capacity in it’s 2019 season. Curriculum-linked programs were delivered to students in grades 2, 3, 5, and (new in 2019) 6. Over half of the programs booked and delivered (55%) were Grade 2 curriculum-linked. The newest program offering (Grade 6), was also the lowest attendance in its inaugural year (9%).
Feedback from teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive. One hundred percent of teachers (n=45) rated student engagement and Instructor Knowledge/Enthusiasm at Good or Excellent (4 or 5 on a scale of 1 – 5). Teachers rated student engagement on average 4.4 out of 5. The main challenge identified by teachers to bring their students to Swan Haven were bus costs and challenging student behaviours.
Spring 2019 School Programming
In September 2018, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve signed a one-year funding agreement with the Department of Education encompassing programming in the fall/winter 2018 and spring 2019.
Through continued support from the Department of Education, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided experiential outdoor-education programs to roughly 880 students between May 10th, 2019 and June 7th, 2019.
Programs were delivered on all 20 days available, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students in Kindergarten, Grade 1 & Grade 4 participated in place-based programming at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
We see opportunities to further develop and expand the outdoor-education offer in partnership with the Department of Education.
2019 Nature Camps
From June 17th to August 16th, 2019, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve offered 9 weeks of Nature camps to Yukoners aged 6 to 12, with space each week for a total of 22 campers, sorted into spots for 14 campers ages 6 to 8 years (Discovery), and 8 campers ages 8 to 12 years (Explorer).
Camp themes in 2019 were: Animal Care, Hidden Worlds, Wilderness Skills, and Nature Detectives.
Over the 9 weeks, there were a total of 197 available spots for campers. For the Discovery age group (6 to 8 years), registration was at 100% and each week there were between 5 and 9 campers on the waitlists. For the Explorer age group, registration was at 98.6 percent, and all but two weeks had between 1 and 3 campers on the waiting list. Over the course of the nine weeks, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided camps for a total of 196 campers, using a team of three staff.
Fall 2019 School Programming
In the Fall of 2019, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve signed a 1-year funding agreement with the Department of Education encompassing one fall/winter and one spring school program sessions for fall/winter 2019 and spring 2020 respectively.
Thanks to the continued support of the Department of Education, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided outdoor experiential programs to 425 students (27 teachers & 44 other chaperones) between November 12th, 2019 and December 13th, 2019.
The season was booked 95% of capacity. Over 19 days available for programming (excluding the blackout day), the YWP team delivered 14 half day programs and 11 full day programs. The majority of programs were divided between Grade 7 & Grade 2 groups. As in past seasons, teacher and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The Preserve in 2020-21
We are forever grateful for your continued support. Together, we will overcome the challenges ahead. Our commitment to wildlife—and to you, our community—are at the heart of everything we do.
More on how the Preserve is Responding to COVID-19
1. Ensuring Continuity of Care
We have more than 200 animals that depend on us. As a result, we have a heightened responsibility to protect the well-being of the staff they depend on.
The daily feeding and care of 200+ animals is no small task. We have a small but dedicated team who makes this all happen. Ensuring continuity of care is about protecting our team and developing contingency plans.
To protect our staff we are going above and beyond the recommendations on cleaning and physical distancing. This includes:
- Compartmentalizing our primary animal care staff to minimize onsite contact and work-site overlaps;
- Developing and continually enhancing work-site cleaning protocols;
- Developing protocols for working with felids (due to known cases of human-felid transmission of COVID-19);
- Developing protocols for interfacing with public when required for accepting wildlife in need of medical care and rehabilitation.
We have also put a number of contingency plans in place, including:
- Cross-training other staff to create a secondary animal care team;
- Developing emergency care protocols and emergency contacts for the secondary team;
- Developing a list of trained heavy equipment operators who can move hay and pellets;
- Close monitoring of medical and food supply chains as well as careful inventory management of key supplies and food;
- Diligent financial planning to ensure quality of care is not compromised.
2. Staying Connected
Our team has been hard at work to bring you stories, videos and regular updates during our temporary closure. As we transition to being open again, we’ll continue to bring you stories and videos as we are able
You can support the Preserve by engaging with and re-sharing this content. Reaching a broader audience has a direct impact on the number of donations we receive – and will help us rebound when tourism gradually resumes!
Our animals need daily food and care. Those donations are still critical for off-setting the loss of visitor revenue.
3. Reduction of Services
The pandemic has forced a reduction of services across our organization. Wherever possible we are redeploying our team to continue on our mission. However, in many cases we have also had the difficult necessity of reducing our team.
With a phased re-opening, we’ll be slowly returning to our original levels of services – as is feasible.
Our educational programming has also been impacted. The suspension of schools has also meant that:
- YWP staff did not deliver school programs at Swan Haven in April;
- YWP staff will not deliver school programs to Yukon students at the Preserve in May and June.
We are working closely with our funding partners for these programs to redeploy these resources (as feasible) to achieve our program goals in other ways.
4. Planning for an Uncertain Future
It’s hard to say when we will reopen. We are now expecting to be closed through May. But we will continue to adapt as the situation evolves.
We are now expecting to see a 55%+ decrease in expected visitation for the 2020-21 fiscal year. However, we are also planning for scenarios where we see an 80%+ decrease. This is due to two key factors:
- 65% of our visitation happens in the first 6 months of the year – and the first half of the year will be most impacted.
- Approximately 60% of our visitors are tourists (non-Yukoners). We are currently expecting severely depressed tourism to continue for 6-12 months before slowly returning towards normalcy.
Revenue from visitation and educational programs accounts for more than $500,000 annually. As a result, we are expecting shortfalls of $200-400k.
We are staying abreast of and participating, where we are eligible, in Territorial and Federal financial supports.
In the meantime, your support is a critical part of ensuring the Preserve’s continued operation.
We still need your support!
Our commitment to wildlife—and to you, our community—are at the heart of everything we do. Re-opening will allow us to continue our mission to connect our visitors to the natural world. It will also help mitigate the financial impacts on the long-term sustainability of the Preserve. That said, the ongoing, daily costs of caring for 200+ animal doesn’t change; so we’re not out of the woods yet. We still need your support.
Ways to Support
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Leverage extra resources, services or expertice and make an in-kind contribution to the Preserve’s day-to-day operations.
Make a one-time or monthly tax-receiptable donation to education, wildlife rehabilitation, or general operations.
Turn your businesses cash or in-kind support for the Preserve into PR for your business and perks for your team.
Ways to Stay Connected
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Jake Paleczny is passionate about interpretation and education. He gained his interpretative expertise from a decade of work in Ontario’s provincial parks in addition to a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. His interests also extend into the artistic realm, with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Western Ontario and extensive experience in galleries and museums.