(Update) Since I penned this October 2015, I surprised myself in taking a lot of volunteer action this year and becoming a Wetlands & Wildlife Center volunteer. This evolved into evaluating and creating a Social Media Posting and Policy Guidelines user guide for the Board to review. Eventually, it was not only received but a special Social Media committee was formed and I and a group of volunteers are dedicating our time to bring a voice to the voiceless - and bring in some much needed funding via social media. Even have more public viewing events as my following article lamented about.
Though my Instagram feed will include occasional updates on the Wildlife Center, you can follow them at any of the following social media feeds (I'm the Twitter tweeter):
I learned that many Wildlife Center volunteers are on 24-hour call to respond to petroleum spills involving California wildlife since they have the equipment to support this, along with the daily rehab and release of injured and orphaned native wildlife in Orange County, CA. Donations always accepted at: http://www.wwccoc.org/donate.html
It was mid-spring and two weeks into my move to a new county, a homeless opossum greeted me at my door. I had seen him earlier in the day but now, he moved very sluggishly and I knew I had to quickly step into action.
Via the Internet, I located three opossum far away rescue center sites, one of which helped me assess that he was “rescue qualified” because the four inch old tike was six inches or less. My neighbors mentioned the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center would take him. So, my gloved neighbor and I gently scooped him into my cat carrier because by then he was playing dead, a very wise little guy, and I left him outside with water, a torn piece of flannel robe, and some cat food. In the morning, what a site! He was drenched and I chided myself for not bringing him onto my balcony. Probably some cat sought to do damage to the poor dear but to no avail.
Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center is on the outskirts of Huntington Beach and inside was quite clean but with no visual sign of animal life anywhere. I noticed a thick grey door, where my little friend entered for flea treatment, hydration, and rest until he was big enough to be released in a creek that was far from any streets, highways or human traffic, which made me quite happy.
The volunteers looked a little tired, explaining that Spring brings not only new wildlife but every abandoned type of wildlife, from squirrels, skunks, ducks, bunnies, seals, birds, etc. Excited about the prospect of seeing all these cute babies I asked if any could be viewed. The answer astonished me: I couldn’t. Once a year they held an open house and that was the only time the community could learn about and view the wildlife at their center. I was saddened to hear because of my knowledge of a center in Northern California.
Being from the San Francisco Bay area, I thought of San Rafael’s Wild Care, a wildlife hospital also open 365 days a year but with a partially open system. For example, there are always creatures hanging out at Wild Care’s courtyard, currently twenty non-releasable rescued birds, reptiles and mammals. At the courtyard there are two live animal presentations daily, along with twice-daily public bird feedings. There is a resident Golden eagle, Turkey vulture, California desert tortoise, a Wood and Gadwall duck, Brown pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Heerrmann’s and Western Gull to name a few.
How do I know this? Because I have two nieces who participate in on-site, in-classroom, and in-the-wilderness programs (and their website of course). Nature camp anyone? Camps are available for children aged 3½ to grade 6 (grouped by age of course). Will they come to your classroom, Boy Scout troop or senior center? Yup. Family tours to sites working to preserve wildlife and the natural environment? Yes, and with a reservation, tours are in English and Spanish and free to the public. Multiple training and internship programs? Yes, for as young as 12 years old.
Though their site contains many features, I found their patient stories and outcomes to be the greatest teaching tool to the susceptibilities to this community’s creatures. As in life, sometimes they were victims of their environment or disease – a Spring storm, a den of feral cats, orphaned, Cancer, a Northern Raccoon with Canine Distemper, fishhooks, a bullet!
This reserve replicates the reality of life and conservation – these animals live all around us and I believe their visibility is crucial to bringing people to the conservation table to see, touch, and learn, 365 days a year, about preservation and continually encourage us in different ways and at different ages to volunteer.
I left the Huntington Preserve saddened by the inability to view the animals if only through a gate, even though they have a wonderful treatment, and release program for the community and a hands-on wildlife rehab education program for teenage students aged 16 and older. But it is in early youth where we dream of baby bunnies and chicks and my hope is one day, this organization will create more programs to cultivate younger people to volunteer and opportunities for the entire community to view work behind the scenes and discover the wildlife that surrounds them.
Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center http://www.wwccoc.org/
Wild Care http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/site/PageServer?pagename=homepage