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Shuswap donkey refuge focuses on resilience as high temperatures increase risk of colic

Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge once again welcoming guests
Abbey and Mocha are among the 100 donkeys residing at the Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge near Chase. (Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge photo)

A Shuswap refuge for neglected, abused or unwanted donkeys is once again welcoming guests as it focuses on building resiliency and environmental sustainability.

The Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge, near Chase, reopened May 6 for weekend drop-in visits, as well as pre-bookings on Quiet Tuesdays & Group Tour Thursdays.

Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to to 3:30 p.m., with the last entry at 3 p.m., visitors to the refuge can spend time with the donkeys, bring a picnic and enjoy the fresh air and peaceful atmosphere, and browse the Donkey Shoppe.

Refuge founders Shirley Mainprize and Rob Miller have been rescuing donkeys for more than 25 years.

“The Refuge houses 100 donkeys in permanent care, with foster farms helping support our cause,” said Mainprize and Miller in a media release.

“Donkeys are one of the most resilient animals, and their ability to recover always surprises and inspires us. When a donkey arrives here, we make a promise to that animal to provide the best possible opportunity to heal.”

Over the years, keeping that promise has included developing more irrigation for pastures and fire protection, installing generators for backup power to ensure the donkeys always have fresh clean water, and building an infirmary and insulated recovery room for sick donkeys.

This year the refuge is focusing on resiliency and environmental sustainability.

Read more: Donkey rescue in Shuswap looks to raise funds for expansion

Read more: Shuswap’s Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge reopening after two-year break

“We just planted windrows of aspens to help with fire protection as well as crab apple and saskatoons to feed native animals, birds and insects. Our goal is to plant 200 trees this year,” said Mainprize.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District is helping with a $1,000 grant to plant another round of trees in the fall. Other ways the refuge is looking to increase sustainability include hot composting, solar power, insulating the barns, flowers for pollinators, and connecting people with the outdoor environment.

Recent temperature extremes have been especially hard on the donkeys, with colic at an all-time high among area equines. “It’s not just us – we have heard from many other horse people in the region who have had colic issues this year,” said Mainprize. “The weather is very unstable, and it has not been kind to donkeys, horses, mules and other grazing animals.”

Visitors should also note the refuge is resuming construction on its barn expansion, which had to be put on hold due to supply chain issues and the winter weather. So some areas of the farm will be off limits this summer.

“The barn expansion is crucial to our long-term planning, and we are hoping we can mitigate the risks of colic by also insulating the existing barn while we have the workers here,” said Mainprize. “A generous long-time supporter has kicked off our insulation campaign with $25,000 and we are hoping to raise another $75,000.”

Donations for the donkeys can be made at, or by calling Mainprize at 250-679-2778. All donations will receive a tax receipt.
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