Moose Mountain Provincial Park is home to many exciting tourist attractions and special activities. People come year long to take in the view.
But what many people don't see is that the work of a very dedicated woman is taking place here. This unselfish lady, is the one and only Cheryl Winkler.
As a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, Winkler spends the majority of her days and nights caring for the many injured and orphaned animals that otherwise would have been forgotten.
She happens to be one of 20 rehabilitators in the province and nurses many different types of animals back to health before releasing them back into their natural habitats.
Winkler currently not only shares her property with her own cats and dog, but also with the temporary guests, baby raccoons, fox kits, an owl, and squirrel, surprisingly no fawns yet. All of them have to be housed in separate, species specific pens around her acreage, as well as they will drink formula brought in from the U.S to make sure the babies are drinking the correct milk.
"Cow milk can cause serious problems for a baby raccoon," explains Winkler. "Although the person who finds the animal may be trying to help, it is best to make sure you have the right information for each species."
Although she loves her job, Winkler has encountered too many heartbreaking stories to count.
For example, the recent kits were orphans, their mother most likely killed. Her goal is never to domesticate an animal, her dream is to have all of the animals that come to her get the strength and smart to survive on their own in the wild. So a brave fox named Rose, has graciously accepted mother hood to the babies. She displays all the characteristics of the best moms, all in one. Unfortunately. Rose herself will be unable to be released into the wild because of her vision impairments.
All of the animals in Winkler's care receive carefully planned treatment, with the goal of the animals being released back into their habitats, without them becoming attached to humans or domesticated, allowing them to return to their natural behaviours and environments without concern for their well being.
As a non-profit recoupe and release, they are government licensed but they are not government funded and every donation goes a long way. The cost of looking after wildlife becomes extensive as meeting their daily nutritional, medical and emotional needs is extremely important.
"We are often asked if people can bring their kids to see the animals," says Winkler. "I just can't do that. The wildlife in our care must be released back into the wild, so getting them used to humans would only hurt them in the long run."
Meeting the animal's dietary needs comes at a high cost. The formula used for the raccoons alone costs $109 per pail, and has to be ordered from the U.S.. The majority of the costs are left to be taken care of by Winkler, but she is thankful for donations from the community.
"At the moment we don't even have a fridge for all of the animals' foods and medications," she says. "I wish we could have a separate fridge for that stuff, and that someone would be kind enough to donate one or help us find one. It is so important to our wildlife."
Not only is Winkler an angel to Saskatchewan wildlife, but she is also quite the artist. She has dedicated the small spare time she has to painting her rescues on feathers, something that is rarely seen. All the proceeds from her paintings, go towards rehabilitation, and building inclosures for her many patients.
"It just randomly came to me one day," she smiles. "I normally do them in the winter months."
If you are looking for other ways to help out, a fundraiser trail ride is held annually with all proceeds going to Moose Mountain Recoupe and Release. This year's event will be held September 8 and 9. Riders are asked to raise pledges either per person or per family. Riders with the top three pledge totals will be awarded prizes for all of their hard work.
Winkler is donating a feather painting to be awarded to the top pledge total.
"My dream is for us all to co-exist with each other."
For more information about Cheryl Winkler and Moose Mountain Recoupe and Release, visit http://www.moosemountainrnr.org/.