The Founders of the Society, Angelika and Peter Langen immigrated to Canada in 1982. Both trained animal keepers, they had previously worked in zoos in Germany. After living in Smithers for several years, they became aware of the fact that there was no place for injured and/or orphaned wildlife to go to and that such animals ended up being killed. With great enthusiasm they approached the local wildlife branch only to find out that rehabilitation programs were met with great uneasiness by the government. After years of discussions and formulating permits, their dream finally became true in 1989.
At first the shelter was used very reluctantly by the authorities. But as first success became apparent and as the public became aware of the shelter's existence, the demands on the shelter grew rapidly. With the Langen’s covering most of the costs and almost all of the work involved, the shelter soon reached dimensions that required a new approach in order to secure adequate housing and care for the animals in need. As a result the Northern Lights Wildlife Society was formed in 2001 and in 2002 the Society became a registered charity. The shelter has now entered a new era. The board is actively looking for sponsors and volunteers to ensure the shelter's ability to care for all wildlife that is brought to our attention.
Though all mammals and birds are accepted, we generally forward birds to other shelters as they have longstanding experience and excellent facilities. Over the years, due to space availability, NLWS has become a specialist in bear, moose and deer rehabilitation. The moose and deer raised at the shelter and released into the nearby park have done extremely well and have proven the success of the program, by producing and raising young in the wild year after year. Careful management, thrives to prevent the animals from becoming too human oriented, as that would prove to be a hazard to their own health (i.e. hunting season), as well as to the safety of humans ( i.e. hikers )
Fortunately most animals seem to make a distinct difference when dealing with their handlers or strangers. This fact ensures that proper care can be given, while still securing the safety of other humans. Though we strive to prevent rehabbed animals to engage into conflict situations with humans that will never be completely preventable. Wildlife and human conflict issues are an ongoing sad reality and rehabbed wildlife is not exempt from such situations.
Along with the care of the animals, NLWS also feels that education and scientific work is of great importance to ensure our coexistence with our magnificent wild animal population.
NLWS actively offers programs for schools and groups throughout the winter and works with university students from around the world, offering unique study opportunities with the animals in care.
In addition NLWS has begun communications with the government to address rehabilitation of large carnivore mammals. As a result of these talks, BC is now world leading by offering the first Grizzly Rehabilitation Pilot Project since 2007.