As we approach the holidays and the new year, I find myself spending more time reflecting on the past 12 months. I think we are inherently drawn into personal reflection, but I am also a junkie when it comes to the seemingly endless Top 10, 25 and 100 lists filling television and radio, newspapers and magazines.

For me, there is much to reflect on this year; both personally and professionally it has been transformational. Over and over, I ask myself the obvious questions: Where did the year go? What did I accomplish? What were my best memories?

When I review my first year at the Preserve, I have no idea where the time went. I do feel that we accomplished a lot and that I have many, many memories. But there is just one story that encapsulates the most-rewarding and the most-devastating moments of this past year. It is the story of rescue animals.

We are extremely proud of the rescue and rehabilitation work that we do. Lead by our veterinarian, Maria, we provide care to between 20 and 60 rescues a year, mostly birds. Our goal for birds is to rehabilitate and to be released.

For mammals, our goal is also rehabilitation; but, given current regulations, most will continue to live at the Preserve after they have recovered.

Animals come to us for a variety of reasons: some are abandoned, some are injured, some are starving. Maria assesses the situation, consults as required and determines a course of action.

Every animal is different, and each – from elk to woodpecker – receives not only Maria’s veterinary skills but also her unwavering dedication and commitment to their care.

For staff and visitors alike, rescues hold a very special place in our hearts. We are touched by their story of survival and challenged by the chance to change their fate.

When we succeed; when we have taught an animal to eat, drink and even fly; when the injury has healed, the concussion has passed and their wild spirit has returned, there is nothing more rewarding. When injury, accident or genetics intervene and we are not able to save them, the feeling of helplessness and disappointment is enormous.

Looking over this past year, there have been some ups and downs, for sure. The memory of Chloe still stings, as does that of a raven, the first bird I ever helped to care for. But those are the exceptions, thankfully.

Of the nine birds we have released, so far, remembering the eagle that recovered and let himself go always makes me smile (no netting competes with those talons).

A quick trip around the Preserve offers many other stories of survival, but my greeting each morning from Cliff, a very fortunate elk, is a terrific way to start every day.

And so, as I look back on this past year and consider the year ahead, I will take guidance from another very lucky animal. A lynx was released recently. He had been hit by a car and was nursed back to health by Maria. For a moment, he seemed unsure about leaving, but after a minute, he bounded forward toward the future … with little more than a glance back.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Krista Prochazka loved the Yukon Wildlife Preserve so much that she made her family move to the Yukon to become executive director of the Preserve. Contact her at krista@yukonwildlife.ca.