Annual Report for 2020-21

by | Jun 22, 2021 | Governance | 0 comments

About the Preserve in 2020-21

Our Mission

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).

Vision

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve will see informed voices that speak for the natural world.

Mission

To connect our visitors to the natural world by being a living centre of Yukon’s species.

Core Values

  • 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 2020-21 included:

Alexandra de Jong Westman, President
Shawna Warshawski, 1st VP
Chris Evans, 2nd VP
Kirk Cameron
Melissa Croskery
Eamonn Pinto
Dennis Berry, non-voting YG rep
Drew MacNeil, non-voting YG rep

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. Committee members:
    • Alexandra de Jong Westman, President
    • Shawna Warshawski, 1st VP
    • Chris Evans, 2nd VP
    • Jake Paleczny, ED
  • Animal Care Committee – oversight and support on care and management of the collection – meets monthly to quarterly depending on need. Committee members:
    • Dr. Maria Hallock (YWP Veterinarian)
    • Mary Vanderkop (Chief Veterinary Officer)
    • Randy Hallock (Manager of Outdoor Operations)
    • Bill Klassen
    • Dave Mossop
    • Justine Benjamin
    • Alexandra de Jong Westman
    • Shawna Warshawski
    • Jake Paleczny
  • Education Committee – assists on education and experience based projects – meets as required. Committee members:
    • Melissa Croskery (Chair)
    • Shawna Warshawski
    • Abi Horobin
    • Lindsay Caskenette
    • Jake Paleczny
  • Research Committee – reviews research proposals and makes recommendations to the board – meets as required. Committee members:
    • Alexandra de Jong Westmann
    • Chris Evans
    • Dave Mossop
    • Fiona Schmiegelow
    • Jake Paleczny
    • Justine Benjamin
    • Katelyn Friendship
    • Kirk Cameron
    • Maria Hallock
    • Shawna Warshawski

Other ad hoc committees and work groups are formed as required to tackle specific projects!

Learn more about the YWPOS Board, Board Committees, or connect with the board.

The YWPOS is seeking passionate new board members to take on the following roles:

  • Finances / Treasurer;
  • Fundraising and sponsorship;
  • Animal Care Committee Chair.

To find out more and get involved, please contact Alexandra de Jong Westman (President, YWPOS) at president@yukonwildlife.ca.

Our Staff

The YWPOS Management Team in 2019-20 included:

Jake Paleczny, Executive Director/CEO
Randy Hallock, Manager of Outdoor Operations
Dr. Maria Hallock, Veterinarian
Lindsay Caskenette, Manager of Visitor Services
Abi Horobin, Manager of Education and Programming (joined mid-season)
Erin Jamieson, Manager of Education and Programming (departed mid-season)

Learn more about the YWP staff and get in touch.

President’s Report

Dear members, supporters, and all those passionate about the wilds of the Yukon:

This year, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve celebrated 17 years of exceptional animal care and visitor experience, and none of it would be possible without our dedicated staff and the support of you – our members, our partners, our sponsors, and our generous donors. On behalf of the Board of Directors, a huge thank you to you all!

Yukon wildlife and ecology is unique and worthy of deep understanding and appreciation, with conservation and management supported by passionate voices and based on sound science that respects Indigenous rights and knowledge. To help coming generations be those educated and respectful voices, the dedicated staff at the Preserve have worked tirelessly this past year (and every year!) to ensure all our visitors have those up-close and personal experiences to inspire and infuse that passion while keeping our animals and visitors, safe.

To continue giving you exceptional experiences and provide our animals with exceptional care, we are embarking on discrete projects as envisioned through our 10-year Master Plan to grow our educational programs, interpretive experiences, and research capabilities. This will require some changes in landscape and infrastructure, where we are also excited to better integrate traditional knowledge in our programming and our interpretive experiences. None of these projects and necessary growth, continued dedication to the health and wellbeing of our animals and that of the wildlife requiring our rehabilitation services, could be possible without the continued support of you.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Staff, thank you again for your ongoing support, and we look forward to seeing you out in our new bus, on foot, on bike… or however you like to see the animals!

Warmest wishes for the summer,

Alexandra de Jong Westman
President, YWPOS Board of Directors

Photo of moose in fall colours.

Executive Director’s Report

It’s probably safe to say: we didn’t see that coming. The global COVID pandemic errupted just as we started our 2020-21 year.

Adapt, Adapt, Adapt

I want to recognize three of the ways my team stepped up to meet this challenge head on.

First, we recognized right away that this had the potential to be financially devastating. Coming off of our best year ever, it was hard, depressing work to develop a series of ever more conservative scenarios. Those are hard conversations. But my team focused in on what mattered most – our animals and our people. I’m really proud to say that despite losing more than half of our regular visitation, we ended the year in a really strong financial position.

Second, as our on-site visitation plumetted, our visitor services and education teams pivoted to keep our community engaged. It’s not easy to have everything turned upside down and then to learn new skill sets. They did an incredible job, posting 20 videos (including immersive 360 videos) and more than 50 blog articles in the 2020-21 year. The stories our team told through those videos and articles showcase an awesome diversity of perspectives on Yukon’s wildlife and our work at the Preserve.

Third, was how our team managed near continuous change with so many unkonwns. My team compartmentalized to protect each other, reogranized buildings (like the front cabin), adapted work plans (when animals were fed, how teams worked together), sought out funding (the list is long), submitted many operational plans to the CMOH, put new systems into place (we started selling tickets and memberships online),  made dramatic shifts to keep programs running (like Nature Camps), and so much more. They just made it work.

I’m incredibly grateful to my team at the Preserve for their creativity, open-mindedness, resilience and focus!

I’m also happy to report on some other highlights from last year.

Support from our Community

We received a record number of donations – particularly through the early phases of the pandemic and leading up to Christmas. You may have heard me say this before – especially if one of those donations was yours – but knowing you believe in our work energizes and propels us forward.  From the bottom of my heart – thank you!

A couple of donations I want to recognize include an anonymous foundation donating $20,000, and Steve Smyth and his family donating more than $3,000 (including matching the funds raised at Run Wild).

This was also a record year for memberships. We were really happy to be able to provide a safe, outdoor setting for recreation. Moving to online sales and renewals helped too. 

Thank you to everybody who had our backs this year. It helped end the year in good position, which is so much more than we’d hoped for.

BioBlitz

With changes came opportunities – including the opportunity to host Yukon’s 2020 Bioblitz. In late July 2020, dozens of experts and enthusiasts descended on the Preserve to do the most thorough inventory of biodiversity ever completed on the property. More than 1,000 observations of more than 450 species were made in those two days. Results from bug traps (bug slurry) were also sent to a world leader in DNA based identification. Some early results from the DNA barcoding included a small species of spider that had not ever been recorded in Yukon. All told that has brought the tally to just over 630 species now. Read more here.

End of Year Equipment

Thanks to an aggressive internal financial response early in the pandemic, community support, and territorial and federal COVID subsidies, the Preserve finished the year in a good position. We were able to make a number of purchases we’d deferred as the pandemic hit one year earlier. Some highlights include:

  • New waterlines to replace aging, leak prone lines
  • Wrapping the Low Floor bus
  • A wood chipper – to divert the majority of sticks from burn piles into more useful woodchips
  • A bagging lawnmower to help tackle the foxtail problem
  • A newer truck to replace the worst of our fleet (this is the YWP’s first truck manufactured in this millennium!)

As crazy as this year has been, I’m happy to count it as a success! A huge thanks to our team here and our local community for all the support they’ve shown us over this past year.

Sincerely,

Jake Paleczny
Executive Director
Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Photo of moose skull at -40c

Ex-Officio Report

During 2020-21, the Department of Environment worked with the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society to develop a one-year funding agreement to provide up to $746,640 for the operation of the preserve until the end of March 2022.

This agreement provides stable funding to deliver a high standard of care for the animals kept at the preserve in a safe and secure natural environment. The one-year timeframe for the funding agreement provides some flexibility to observe the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the preserve’s revenues and operations.

During the 2020-21 fiscal year, the Department of Environment has also discussed with the Operating Society the long-term planning considerations for the preserve and exploring more predictable long-term funding approaches for future years.

Operations Report

Some of the highlights from the Outdoor Operations Department include:

Spring / Summer 2020

  • Site clean-up, including cleaning up supplies, garbage disposal, etc
  • Removed old fuel tank at green shop
  • Assisting Animal Care with in the field medical procedures
  • Re-deck and paint trailer
  • Hauling water
  • Running insulators for electric fence
  • Lynx catchpen: clean pen, geotech and chips to mitigate future foxtail issues
  • Cutting browse (assisting AC)
  • Clearing fence lines
  • Painting posts
  • Fix flight pens
  • Build alleyway to back pastures (per Master Plan animal handling diagrams – see green lines on the map)
  • Finished cross fence in sheep pasture and removed old fence
  • Removed old fence in deer pasture (females)
  • Built alleyway from old facility/compound to dam (per Master Plan animal handling diagrams – see green lines on diagram below)

Fall / Winter

  • Pushed up stick piles in back 40 to burn this winter
  • Continuing clean up and dump runs
  • Work on electric fence
  • H&S Inspections and lots of follow-up on fixing deficiencies
  • Changed bumper rail in male muskox habitat.
  • Grinding carrots and apples
  • Burnt the 4 large brush piles with support of Hootalinqua Fire Department
  • Plowed snow, and more snow, and more snow and more snow…
  • Burnt small stick piles
  • Sourced year-end equipment purchases
Map showing construction of new alleyway for animal handling.

Above: The green lines show the newly constructed animal handling chute for safely and easily moving animals from the central compound to the dam and lake roads.

Map showing location of newly constructed moose elk handling chute.

Above: the newly constructed animal handling chute (in green) connects the large ungulate habitat in the back to the rest of the Preserve, enabling easier, safer movement of moose and elk back and forth. Below: the Hootalinqua Fire Department assisting with burning the large brush piles.

Photo of brush piles on fire and hootalinqua firetruck and crew

Animal Care Report

Main Collection

As of March 31st 2020.

168

Animals

In main collection

  • North American elk 7.8
  • Moose 3.2
  • Woodland caribou 3.7
  • Mule deer 14.30
  • Thinhorn sheep 13.21
  • Mountain goat 5.21
  • Muskox 6.7
  • Bison 2.12
  • Canadian lynx 1.2
  • Arctic fox 0.2
  • Red fox 2.0

Key: male. female. Unknown

 

Other Updates:

  • Bison and Caribou bred in fall 2020 per collection plan
    • June 18 2021: 3 baby bison born so far! Still expecting baby caribout in spring 2021.
  • Lynx bred in early 2021 per collection plan
    • June 18 2021: still expecting kittens in spring 2021.
  • Planning to breed bison, muskox and caribou in summer/fall 2021 per collection plan.

Arrivals

(Born April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021)

Bison: 1 (May 2020)

Departures

(Deceased April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021)

Mountain Goat: 2 (April 2020, Sep 2020)
Mule Deer: 12 (2020)
Thinhorn Sheep: 3 (2020)
Arctic Fox: 1 (April 2020)
Peregrine Falcon: 1 (April 2020)
Caribou: 2 (Nov, Dec, 2020)
Bison: 1 (2021)

 

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!

This chart shows all arrivals between April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021. Current status incdlues all known outcomes up to June 18, 2021.

Species Released Deceased Still in care
Pine Grosbeak 2    
Mallard Duck 9 1  
Bohemian Waxwing 1 1  
American Robin 3 2  
Sparrow juv 2 2  
Gull 3    
Sharp Shin Hawk   1  
Raven   4  
Northern flicker   1  
Spruce grouse   4  
Kingfisher   1  
Bald Eagle 3* 1  
Lesser Scaup 1    
Junco 4    
Boreal owl   1  
Yellow Billed Sapsucker 1    
Magpie 1    
Tree swallow 14    
Golden Eagle   1
Frog   1  
Red Squirrel 11    
Moose 1**
Total 56 21 1

* Two of the three bald eagles were successfully released in May 2021.

** This moose was released from the YWP’s rehabilitation program to join the main collection in fall 2020.

 

July 3 2018 – July 3, 2019

Species Released Deceased

Still in care

/ YWP residents

American robin 3 2 1
Tree Swallow 2
Pine Grosbeak 1
Sparrow 2
Crossbill 1
American Kestrel 1
Northern Goshawk 1
Moose 2
Bald Eagle 1
Red Squirrels 9 4
Hawk Owl 1
Snowshoe Hare 1
Red Fox 1
Total 18 12 7

 

 

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 president@yukonwildlife.ca

Visitor Services Report

Retail Operations

The Preserve was headed towards exponential growth in retail sales in the previous year until Covid forced a 2 month closure of the facility to the public. Upon reopening measures to ensure public and staff safety meant that the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop was not open to visitors to come in and browse gift items. Visitor Services got creative with the help of Outdoor Ops obtained a rolling display unit to help encourage shoppers. What we noted was a small increase in sales of which became greater when the border to BC opened. We see retail sales are not strong among our locals and members.

Line chart showing retail sales by year.
Bar chart showing retail sales by month since 2011.
Photo of YWP staff showing off roll out merch cart.
Chart of retail sales.

Retail sales suffered a 69% decline from the previous fiscal year (2019-2020). Values for both Retail Sales and Visitation appear to align with total fiscal values from the years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. This gives indication of per capita spending of $1.13.

The month to month sales shows $0 values for the 2 months in which the Preserve was closed to the public. What is notable is October sales (and closely behind that September) from this year being close in total value to the previous year. This is likely related to the fall traffic the Territory saw from the BC bubble.

Visitation

Overall visitation in 2020-2021 decreased 56.9% from the previous year (2019-2020).

October and March visitation from this fiscal year to last fiscal year are the most comparable. While October is explained with the bubble traffic, the numbers for March correlate to the closure in 2020 March 23 and the fantastic winter conditions in March of 2021 along with March Break stays given travel restrictions in place at the time.

These monthly visitation numbers have very similar alignment with 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 numbers when territory-wide national and international visitation was low before it’s steady incline to immediately pre-covid.

Chart of visitation to YWP over last 17 years
Chart showing monthly visitation.
Bar chart showing member and non-member visits to the YWP.

Overall average Member versus non member visits are very close with a slightly higher non-member visitation rate. In previous years we would see significantly more non-member visits upwards of 75% compared to member visits.

Aligned with the bubble opening and closing we see the winter months dominated by member visits, often with repeat visits by a household within a month period.

Line chart showing member visitation by month.

Visitation Type

People like to walk – especially amid a pandemic and being outside is more than ever recommended! It’s also a great way to experience the Preserve. With incredible winter conditions we saw lots of fat bikers, skiers, and kick sledders within the 11,902 visitors under general admission. Other guided tours include charters, facility rentals and Step-on’s. The most popular were the 1 hour step-on tours with the retirement homes. These tours have been extremely positive for both YWP staff and the long term care home residents while options for outings were very limited.

Pie chart showing how people visit the YWP.

Visitation through Events

Several events this year were cancelled given they fell upon our closure time, those being our two major early year events including Easter Eggstravaganza and Yukoner Day.

We were able to successfully and safely plan and run our Run Wild Event and Wild Trick Treat 2020 editions.

  • Run Wild 2020 saw 61 present participants and 69 participants and raised $4,223. These numbers both participant and monies raised beat our 2019 event thanks to a matching donation by Steven Smyth of direct fund raised $1,890. Yukoner’s supported further by taking advantage of a 15% discount promotion at the Preserve’s Little Gift Shop.
  • Wild Trick or Treat 2020 – Our fast growing event! This year adjusting to Covid, we continued encouraging non-contact beyond our check-in experience to an upgraded scavenger hunt to be also contactless. Games and activities along the way while families worked on the scavenger hunt clues were a welcomed encouragement to get to the chocolate. Most important and loved are the spooktacular pumpkin feedings with our carnivores in which the lynx feeding continues to prove to be the most well attended with 45 people.
  • A (one-time) new joint event that was a success was the 3 day Yukon Bioblitz being held for the first time at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The article written in January 2021 identified over 400 species recorded, but there are now well over 600 and counting.

Education and Programming Report

Swan Haven School Programming – April 2020

The pandemic struck just days before YWP staff were to head out to Swan Haven to deliver 1/2 day school programs throughout April 2020 to Yukon students. The education team pivoted and instead put their efforts into developing classroom extensions and lesson plans designed to allow more students the opportunity to engage with Swan Haven’s main theme about the importance of early-season open water for migratory birds.

This include five lesson plans for K-4 that brought together art, music, literature and ecology. Lesson extensions included a graphing challenge using daily and historical swan counts from Swan Haven. The team also created an ambient 360° video of the site.

Check out the new teacher resources section on our Swan Haven page!

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. A successful partnership was born!

Screenshot of YWP's Swan Haven webpage

Spring School Programming – May/June 2020

Like Swan Haven School Programs, our programs delivered in partnership with the Department of Education were cancelled. In a typical year the Preserve’s Education team would see around 800 students from early May to mid June.

This year the team pivoted to focus on digital content. They produced a series of immersive 360° videos on animals at the Preserve in both English and French. They also developed a classroom extensions for each video as well as additional resources to help make the most out of these resources in a remote learning environment.

Check out the videos on the new Teacher Resources page.

The YWP has partnered with the Department of Education since the mid-2000’s to provide curriculum based school programs to Yukon students at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. With financial support from the Department, the Preserve provides these programs to Yukon students at no charge.

Nature Camps – June-August 2020

Fortunately, the Preserve was able to run Nature Camps at full capacity. This was thanks to generous financial support from CANNOR to keep day-camps around Yukon running through summer 2020. The Preserve was able to use that funding to split the camp into three autonomous groups with kid/instructor totals not exceeding 10 people.

That included hiring on drivers and busses from Arctic Range, additional support staff, new PPE and cleaning supplies, and tents from Marsh Lake Tents and Events. Camps ran weekly from June 15 to August 14. In all, 178 kids participated.

It was a mammoth effort, but there were lots of happy parents!

Photo of kids hands holding frogs over a bucket.
Photo of kids outside watching bison in the winter.

Fall School Programming – Nov/Dec 2020

By the time fall school programs rolled around, we knew a lot more about how to mitigate the risks of COVID. The Education team developed a plan that was approved by the office of the CMOH and programs proceeded!

Thanks to the continued support of the Department of Education, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided outdoor experiential programs to 460 students (plus 25 teachers & 40 other chaperones) between November 12th, 2020 and December 17th, 2020. The season was booked to 93% of capacity. As in past seasons, teacher and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Due to the ongoing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season involved some additional precautions and preparation by the YWP education team. In addition to continuing to successfully modify program time slots to meet teacher and bussing needs, YWP staff took additional care and precautions by doing extra cleaning of the bus and facility, as well as wearing masks.

The YWP has partnered with the Department of Education since the mid-2000’s to provide curriculum based school programs to Yukon students at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. With financial support from the Department, the Preserve provides these programs to Yukon students at no charge.

The Preserve in 2021-22

Thank you.

We are forever grateful for your continued support. Our commitment to wildlife—and to you—our community—are at the heart of everything we do.

Here’s some of what we’ve been working on or have planned for 2021-22:

  • Fencing security upgrades to caribou and moose habitats;
  • Business Planning for the “Moose Cabin” phase of the Master Plan;
  • Planning new public events to be added this summer (more on that coming soon);
  • Negotiating new funding agreement with Department of Environment – and working with other YG departments;
  • Revising governance policies;
  • Developing new gift shop products in collaboration with local artists;
Photo of YWP staff working on installing fencing.

The Outdoor Operations crew lays down and attaches an “apron” on the outside of the new fence on the lower corner of the caribou habitat. With smaller spaces in the mesh, the caribou and their babies will be safer from potential predators.

Photo of bus with "your name here" text.

Let’s work together!

Do you see yourself in what we do? Please consider sponsoring specific projects and have your company featured on-site and online! Potential projects include:

  • Trail development;
  • Purchasing a new truck;
  • Sponsor an Event;
  • Alternative Energy;
  • Fencing and animal security enhancements;
  • Site utility improvements.

We still need your support!

We are grateful to have weathered 2020. However, we’re not out of the woods yet. While tourism remains greatly diminished, so too does an important source of funding. Your continued support will 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

• • •

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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yukonwildlife.ca/blog



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See photos and more at
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Jake Paleczny

Jake Paleczny

Executive Director

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.

867-456-7313
jake@yukonwildlife.ca

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