In January 2017, Conservation Officers in the West Kootenay Zone recognized Helen for her dedication and support to the wildlife of British Columbia and the COS since 1966.
If you ever find yourself seated at Helen Jameson’s kitchen table you may be treated to a cup of tea and countless stories of the thousands of animals she has taken in and rehabilitated at her hobby farm in 49 Creek. Helen’s love of wildlife has earned her the title of being a Kootenay legend and her reputation has travelled far beyond its borders.
As a young girl growing up in Saskatchewan, Helen recalled the excitement of learning that a travelling wild animal display was taking place near her home. She walked a mile through the farm fields and though she didn’t have the 25 cent entrance fee to go into the venue, she managed to take a peek through the fence. Helen was horrified to see a large black bear with a huge collar around its neck chained up. It was at that moment she knew she wanted to devote her life to keeping wildlife “wild”.
While living in St. Anne Manitoba, Helen spotted an advertisement in the Winnipeg Free Press for a remote property in the Kootenays. One look at the ad was all it took for Helen to pack up her family and move west. On September 01, 1965 Helen came “home” to 49 Creek and started her hobby farm.
About a year after settling in, the local Game Warden, Ted Rutherglen showed up at Helen’s property and solicited her help in taking in and rehabilitating orphaned wildlife. This was the beginning of a long and dedicated partnership with the Conservation Officer Service in Nelson and beyond. From rabbits and squirrels, elk and deer, bears and birds and most recently a River Otter, Jameson has cared for them all.
Throughout the years since, Helen has outlasted and managed to “train” many Game Wardens and Conservation Officers in the Kootenays, including her late husband Sid Jameson, whom she married shortly after his retirement from the COS in 1988. “It didn’t matter that Sid was a CO, the care of those animals was strictly my domain, and he knew it.” said Jameson. But as Helen says with a laugh, “the job in 49 Creek didn’t pay a good wage”, so she worked as a Matron for the Nelson City Police for 20 years to help offset the cost of caring for and rehabilitating orphaned and injured animals. Helen’s straight shooting yet compassionate personality extended to the women she was tasked to guard.
Despite being retired from her Matron position there is no rest for Jameson just yet. She currently is authorized as a rehabilitation facility for injured or orphaned birds, ungulates and small mammals where she provides the necessary care to nurture them back to health for release. In the case of rehabilitating orphaned black bears, Helen works in partnership with the COS and the Northern Lights facility in Smithers.
Jameson’s success as a wildlife caregiver is due to her pragmatic approach and attitude. “First and foremost wildlife must be kept wild. These are not my pets and they are not treated as pets. They must stay wild or I am wasting my time.”
Jameson has been and still is a huge asset to the Conservation Officer Service and the public in the area. In 1991, Helen was presented with the Minister’s Environmental Award in the Individual Citizen Category. In January 2017, Conservation Officers in the West Kootenay Zone recognized Helen for her dedication and support to the wildlife of British Columbia and the COS since 1966. Inspector Joe Caravetta, Officer in Charge for the Kootenay Boundary Region of the BC COS explains that he had the great fortune of meeting Helen in 1988, and has always been sincerely impressed by her dedication, commitment and genuine kind-heartedness to assisting wildlife in need.
Jameson sums it up nicely, “It’s been an interesting life. Things have changed, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”