The Centre-Refuge Nymous is a centre for wildlife observation, rehabilitation and specialized education. It also serves to provide a sanctuary for wild animals.

Nymous: The Unforgettable History
Alone and injured after losing his mother and siblings in a fatal accident, Nymous found Jacques Lessard and Rachel Ouve. They took him in and nursed him back to health. After living with Lessard and Ouve for just a short while, he quickly became part of their family. He considered them his parents. Lessard and Ouve taught him how to climb trees and how to fish, and Nymous tagged along with Lessard on ATV rides to the lake. Nymous quickly became the star of the family – he even became known in France!

One day, a photo of Nymous fell into the wrong hands and a complaint was made to the Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles. By law, it is illegal to keep a wild animal at home without a license. “At this point, Nymous was 22 months old and he weighed 50 pounds. He was part of our family. It's like taking a child away,” says Lessard. The Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles decided to separate Nymous from Lessard and Ouve. In his new home, Nymous no longer ate or drank. “He was letting himself die,” says Lessard. He and Ouve travelled long distances to keep their raccoon company and feed him. So they decided to fight for Nymous to return home. After just a few weeks, Lessard and Ouve received a lot of media attention from media outlets like Global News, Denis Levesque, TVA, and the Journal de Québec, among others. They were able to collect more than 15,600 signatures for a petition to get Nymous back. While on set of the Denis Levesque show in Quebec City, the Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles granted Lessard and Ouve a license so Nymous could return home.

With Nymous back home, Lessard and Ouve decided to open a wildlife observation centre. Soon after, they were taking in orphaned baby raccoons. Because Nymous was very protective of babies, Lessard and Ouve decided to sterilize him for safety reasons. However, during the operation, Nymous contracted a virus that developed into a fatal infection. At 26 months, Nymous died in the arms of those who loved him the most in the world. “Nymous was a great animal. He changed our lives,” explains Lessard.

An Important Mission
The Centre-Refuge Nymous has a mission to inform, educate and enable people to better understand and respect wildlife animals. “Too many animals suffer because humans fear what they do not know,” explains Lessard. “We are the ambassadors of the raccoons. An animal is simple. It has just three needs: food, housing and the need to procreate. At the Centre-Refuge Nymous, they claim the territory of wild animals and ensure people respect it.

They offer services to educate people of all ages about Quebec wildlife and the environment. “In my opinion, the Ministry of Education should incorporate an educational component about the flora and fauna here in Quebec. Children must be informed so they won’t have the same philosophy as their parents,” says Lessard. The Centre-Refuge Nymous visits elementary schools, and makes presentations in CEGEPs, universities, associations, companies, day camps, trade shows, exhibitions and many more. “When it's possible, we go with an animal. Children are fascinated,” says Lessard.

A Serious Need
The Centre-Refuge Nymous works between 130 and 140 hours a week to give back to wildlife animals. “It costs about $1,500 per month in groceries to feed all our animals. Yearly, veterinary fees can go up to $15,000,” says Lessard. The shelter receives no help from the government. “Animals belong to everyone, though,” Lessard explains.

Raccoons, deer, cubs, fawns, coyotes, wolves, possums, foxes and skunks can also be found at the Centre-Refuge Nymous. “We are the first line of defence,” Lessard explains.

The wildlife here are very well cared for. “The animals eat quality food. They enjoy a balanced diet of almonds, walnuts, turkey, chicken, biscuits and cheese, among others. They eat their fill. In winter, raccoons put on 30 per cent of their weight and their hair grows a lot. It looks like little balls. They spend the best years of their lives here, being kept away from humans, who are the cause of their issues," explains Lessard. The Centre-Refuge Nymous also receives a lot of help from volunteers. Some help with groceries and help to feed babies.

People can sponsor an animal for $25 a month. “An animal costs $900 to $1,000 a year to meet all its needs. So you need three caregivers per animal,” says Lessard. When someone sponsors an animal, they receive a certificate of sponsorship confirming their contribution to the survival of an animal in Quebec. The shelter also issues tax receipts since it is a registered charity. The sponsor also receives photos and updates about the animal. “Every animal has a name and a different story. We group them by family,” Lessard explains.

A Devoted Spokesperson
Kim Bruneau is the spokesperson for the Centre-Refuge Nymous. She found out about it when she was looking for a shelter for a little orphaned raccoon, named Fleur. “When I was looking for a place for Fleur on Facebook, several people recommended the Centre-Refuge Nymous. After talking to Rachel Ouve on the phone for more than an hour, having checked the facilities in pictures and reading all the recommendations, we went to visit and were convinced that this was the best place for her,” says Bruneau.

It was Ouve’s post on Facebook that convinced Bruneau to become the spokesperson for the Centre-Refuge Nymous. “My cousin also decided to join the team by offering her veterinary services, because it is extremely difficult to find veterinarians who want to treat wild animals and we need many,” says Bruneau.

As the spokesperson, Bruneau encourages people to donate and increases awareness about the Centre-Refuge Nymous. “I am neither an extremist or an activist and I do not tell people what they should do or not do. I talk to them about a cause that is close to my heart and what I do to help. If this appeals to them, I encourage them to get started. Anyway, I think anyone who goes to the centre and meets Rachel, Jacques and the animals cannot help but fall in love with our mission,” Bruneau says.

For more information about the wildlife centre or to make a donation, visit centre-refuge-nymous.com.

Translated by Maria Barillaro