Born and raised in Argyle, Nova Scotia, Hope Swinimer spent most of her time outdoors as a child enjoying everything the natural world had to offer. She knew that she wanted to work with animals in some capacity, and after missing the ocean terribly while attending college in Truro, that she wanted to be near the sea.
While working at Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital as a manager, Hope took in her first rehab animal in 1995—a robin that had been attacked by a cat. Researching how to care for the bird inspired her to learn more about injured wildlife, and as her knowledge grew, colleagues began sending wildlife-related calls her way.
Later that year, she became certified in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. It was shortly after this that Hope really dug in and committed to starting a wildlife rehabilitation centre “at home.”
With just a few cages in the backyard and a room in her house as a nursery, Hope rehabbed about 40 animals in her first year. By 1996, word of this grew and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined that a permit was required; however, such a permit did not exist in the province at that time. She worked with DNR to establish a licensing process (using the United States as a model), and in 1997, moved to Winnie’s Way in Seaforth where she received her Rehabilitator Permit.
The Eastern Shore Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre became the first privately owned wildlife rehabilitation centre in Nova Scotia, taking in about 200 animals per year. But the demands on the rehab soon outgrew the property again, and in 2001, she relocated within Seaforth to “the farm,” which was a larger property that would accommodate the rehab’s immediate needs but also leave room to grow.
Five years later, the Eastern Shore Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre officially became the Hope for Wildlife Society, a registered charitable organization that continues to evolve as the need for its services increases. Over 3,500 wild animals are now taken into the organization’s care each year, and in addition, over 10,000 callers are assisted through its wildlife helpline, thousands of visitors are welcomed to its facilities for guided tours, hundreds of offsite educational presentations are given to community and school groups, and a wide range of data is collected from animals treated at its rehabilitation centre.