Bear in the Family and Saving Sammy
By Eric Walters
I was traveling through Northern British Columbia on a tour of schools. One of the organizers, Teresa Monkman, not only arranged schools for me to visit but also opened her home and I stayed with her and her family. They also provided inspiration.
They told me a story–and showed me pictures and a video–of a little baby beaver that they had found on their property after the Bulkley River, which runs through their backyard, flooded. The Monkman family fed and cared for this little guy, whom they called Sammy, saving his life. This ultimately became an Orca Echoes book titled Saving Sammy.
Raising a baby beaver is both a full-time job and requires additional expertise as it grows older. Luckily for Sammy, help was close at hand. Just outside of Smithers is an amazing place called Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter. It was founded in 1989 by an amazing couple, Angelika and Peter Langen.
Originally from Germany, they immigrated to Canada in 1982 and settled in Northern British Columbia. They are both extensively trained to provide care for animals and realized that there was no facility available in the area to provide for injured or abandoned animals. Supported by a team of volunteers, they have provided rescue, care, rehabilitation and release to animals that have been found injured, abandoned and in desperate situations. Their goal is to give injured or orphaned wildlife a second chance at survival and further, if possible, to return animals to the wild. Over the last thirty-one years, the shelter has taken in 563 bears, 112 moose calves, 156 deer fawns and hundreds of smaller mammals and birds, which the staff raised and released back into the wild.
Angelika and Peter have always been generous with their time and have opened their doors to me whenever I have been in the area. On a recent trip, I was fortunate to be welcomed to the shelter and told more stories about rescued bear cubs, moose and other animals. They showed me the dozens of baby bears and moose in their care. With the extensive forest fires that have swept through British Columbia over the past few years, they have been inundated with more and more orphaned, abandoned and injured animals. These animals would have died without the help of Angelika and Peter.
My latest Orca Echoes book is called Bear in the Family. It is fiction based on fact, about a family that discovered a little bear cub, whom they call Boo-Boo. He’s been abandoned, burned and orphaned by a fire that has swept through their area. His mother is not there, and he is alone, starving and on the verge of dying. They rescue him and provide the initial care that allows him to survive. They also know that the long-term survival of this bear, and the opportunity to ultimately return him to the wild is dependent upon expert help. They make a telephone call to Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter to provide this care.
In writing this story I wanted to introduce young readers to wildlife rehabilitation centers like the one that takes in Boo-Boo. In real life, you should never approach a wild animal, even one that looks injured or alone. Keep your distance and contact a wildlife rehabilitation center or conservation officer in your area if you think the animal needs help.
Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter and Society survives on donations. If you wish to find out more about this amazing place–and perhaps make a donation–go to their website here.
Praise for Saving Sammy
“The story gives children an invaluable message. No matter how young you are or what your situation is, there is always something you can do.” —CM Magazine
Praise for Bear in the Family
“Educating readers about wildlife rehabilitation centers is woven throughout this thoughtful, relatable, and interesting tale.” —School Library Connection
Eric Walters is a Member of the Order of Canada and the author of over 120 books that have collectively won more than 100 awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for The King of Jam Sandwiches. A former teacher, Eric began writing as a way to get his fifth-grade students interested in reading and writing. Eric is a tireless presenter, speaking to over 100,000 students per year in schools across the country. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.