For more than 25 years, Kim Balcom has been committed to animal rescue, helping save countless animals lives and enriching her community in the Kootenays immensely.
Born and raised in Kimberley, Balcom’s career has been spent in Rocky Mountain School District 6, with all her work with animals done on a purely volunteer basis, including with organizations like Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS), OWL Rehab, WildsafeBC and the BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS).
“When animals are in need I just go, there’s no question,” Balcom said. “It’s just a passion.”
Balcom works closely with the BCCOS and Ministry biologists, who will call her out when they need assistance with birds of prey or bear cubs when they need support. Usually how she gets involved is someone will call the RAPP line, for instance when they spot a bear cub on its own, such as on November 27 in Fernie.
A woman noticed a bear cub the size of a 10 week old puppy wandering through the snow in her yard, and noticed after hours of observation that there was no mother in sight, so she called the BCCOS. The biologist then made the call that it was a cub born this year and a call was put into NLWS, who dispatched Balcom.
At the time, Balcom was already down in Wynndel attending to another bear, so she left to come to Fernie, as they knew they were going to need more help.
Balcom then handled the capture of the bear cub and organized the transportation to NLWS, who are located in Smithers, B.C. Balcom has a good group of people who she can rely on for rising to the occasion to transport the bear. Once they get to Kamloops, Bandstra Trucking is their number-one trucking company that takes the animals the rest of the way up to Northern Lights.
“Kim is a longtime volunteer of NLWS and one of a handful of special capture volunteers in the province,” said NLWS co-founder Angelika Langen.
“Her dedication to help wildlife in need is unshakable and she drops everything to come to their aid. She is supported by family and friends, without whom this would not be possible. Not only does she inspire others and donates her time, but she often also covers costs for gas and feed for the animals she rescues. We are truly grateful to have her on our team.”
The process for injured birds of prey is fairly similar, except the BCCOS isn’t usually involved. Balcom had actually got a call for a bald eagle that had been hit on the road the same day as this interview, on Dec. 1. On this particular occasion, Balcom sent a friend of hers, as she wasn’t able to attend to it herself.
With birds of prey, the animal is usually taken to a veterinary clinic and then flown out to OWL Rehab in Delta, B.C. by Pacific Coastal, who always provide the service free of charge. They’re then flown back when they are able to be returned to the wild.
“Between Pacific Coastal and Bandster Trucking and Northern Lights and OWL — they do a lot in our communities for us,” Balcom said. “If you’ve seen any of my posts, I always thank absolutely everybody that’s been involved and at the bottom I always say, it takes a community to make these rescues happen.”
Balcom said that her favourite part of the work is seeing animals like bear cubs returned back to the wild after being successfully rescued and rehabilitated — that full cycle of return.
Often the animals are returned very close to the areas they were rescued from, with the NLWS working with a biologist to determine a good spot.
She has worked with numerous birds of prey and bear cubs this year, and said that each case has its own draw, but mentioned one particular story that stood out from this year.
Balcom was in Golden grabbing a fawn for Little Mittens Animal Rescue Association, but had to call them and say that she’d been called out to a bear cub rescue, and it turned out to be a grizzly.
“I’ve never had one, it’s very special,” Balcom said. “It’s a very powerful animal, it was very nice to be a part of that rescue. Every rescue has its draw.”
She said that her desire to do animal rescue arose when she realized that there just were not a lot of options for wildlife support.
“So that’s when I started reaching out to other areas and finding out who has facilities to be able to take animals, then that’s when I went gung ho with it,” Balcom explained. “Then I just volunteered for everybody that would take a volunteer on.”
Over the years, she has noticed that the relationships have been forged and flourished between the Ministry and the BCCO with groups like OWL or NLWS and as a result, the BCCOS is able to hand these kinds of cases over to wildlife management teams which frees them up for their other work.
“It’s great to see that the working relationship between the rehabbers, the volunteers and Conservation and Ministry staff has come a long, long way over the years in a positive manner,” Balcom said, adding she said she as well as built a good working relationship with the BCCOS , the Ministry Biologist and the rehabbers.
“I wholeheartedly feel that they have the toughest jobs going. I tell them that every single time I get the opportunity.”
Balcom said that living here in the Rocky Mountain Trench, it’s important that the average resident do their part to learn how to cohabitate with the area’s wildlife. From managing attractants, not letting animals get comfortable in yards or being vigilant about mother deers in fawning season, Balcom said, “as humans we need to do better by what we do in our communities.”
This will help to slow the numbers of animals that need to be sent to places like OWL or NLWS. In closing, Balcom just asked that anyone who reads this consider donating to these groups to allow them to continue to do the wonderful work they do for the province’s animals.
To report an inured, distressed or orphaned animal, call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.