Most people would consider it a rare privilege to cradle a week-old fawn in their arms, but Helen Jameson got used to it a long time ago.
For over 45 years, Jameson has been nurturing and rehabilitating vulnerable wildlife on her Blewett farm. Currently she has a month-old moose and week-old fawn in enclosures that shield them from the bears in the area. Both of the animals were orphaned recently. But she said she won’t be sad to see them go.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of expense. It’s good enough for me to see them alive. They can go back out into the forest and have their life. That’s the whole point of it,” she said.
Jameson has no way of predicting which animals she will be nursing from year to year. She raised a moose last year, and was surprised to find another one on her doorstep only months later, dropped off by Creston conservation officer James Barber.
“He called me up and said ‘I’m sending over a moose’. I said you can’t be sending me a moose. I had a moose last year. Maybe they skip a year before I get another moose. But he said he’s coming, and it’s just new.”
“He’s only a baby,” said Jameson, “He lost his mother when he was just about a day old. They found her dead and he was alone, hungry. That’s where I come in,” she said.
Jameson explained all this to the Star while the calf suckled her fingers. “He’s going to be pretty disappointed when he figures out there’s no milk in there,” she said.
James recently had to rig up a small tarp to help protect the fawn from the weather, because it hadn’t yet learned how to shield itself from the elements. She said the fawn is still nervous around her, but is healthy and should be able to return to the wild along with her moose companion.
This year may be one of Jameson’s last as the sole wildlife rehabilitator in the West Kootenay. Her husband Syd is sick and she feels it’s time for someone else to take over her responsibilities.
She hopes to retire in the next year or two, but said so far people interested in the gig have been put off when they heard about her current wage: nothing.
“I guess most people think if they’re going to do something like this they need a government salary or something,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and you don’t get paid to do it. But if anybody feels in their heart they want to help out, they should.”
The Nelson Save-On-Foods will be running a fundraiser from 11 to 5 on Thursday, June 19. Last year they raised just shy of $3,000 for Helen’s farm. This year the emphasis is specifically on milk, because both the fawn and the moose will be consuming enormous amounts of it.
“Ordinary cow’s milk is bad enough when you’re wanting gallons of it,” said Jameson. She needs goat’s milk.
Assistant manager Greg Wheaton was effusive about Helen’s sanctuary and said Save-On-Foods was thrilled to contribute to the farm’s future.