One Nevada County American kestrel will never be able to fly again. And as with countless other members of the animal kingdom that are injured, the cause is human.
Braveheart, who is now an educational bird that cannot be released into the wild, was captured and used as a pet. Its owner cut off one of his wings so he could not fly away, as well as cutting off his talons. Though the latter grew back, the wing cannot be replaced.
Braveheart is one of many birds cared for by members of Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release. But the future for such rescues is uncertain as the organization is at risk for losing its Wildlife Intake Center on Maltman Drive in Grass Valley.
The center provides a place for triage of injured or abandoned birds, which may be transferred to the raptor clinic in Penn Valley or cared for by volunteer at-home rehabilitators.
The center includes multiple rooms for housing the birds, providing education to volunteers and keeping a clinic stocked with medicine and supplies.
It also serves as a public presence for people to visit. Without it, organizers fear donations might plummet further, a concern compounded by expensive rent and utilities and the rising price of mice.
“Mice used to be about 35 cents each, and they’ve gone up to 75 to 80 cents each,” said Beth Myers, bookkeeper for the organization. “I figured out that a raptor eats up to 2,500 rodents the very first year of its life.”
Wildlife Rehab was able to survive because of grants that are no longer offered, said Director-at-Large Karen Koskey.
“We haven’t gotten this year, for one reason or another, a lot of the grants that have been keeping us afloat,” she said. “That’s really hitting us.”
The intake center is funded through Dec. 15.
The organization is seeking benefactors to sustain another year of service, either through donations or through a donated or affordable rental space, said the group’s vice president, Janet Goodban.
“We seem to just be getting by year to year, and we’re not thinking we’re going to be able to get by if we had to give up the intake center,” she said.
“We might not get as many calls because they might not be as aware of us,” Koskey said. “Having the intake center has really put us in the public’s mind, so when they find a hawk on the side of the road, they know to call us rather than leave it.”
The organization pays about $1,200 a month for the intake center and storage space with an additional monthly $425 utility bill at the Maltman location and about $200 a month at the raptor clinic.
The organization received about 800 birds before having an intake center and about 1,200 after, which has indicated the need, Myers said.
The intake center also allows for home rehabilitators to drop off baby birds, some of which need to be fed every 20 minutes.
“If this was not here, we would have to have all medications, everything in each of the homes, instead of just one central place,” Koskey said. “A lot of times, those home rehabbers can bring the baby birds here when the center is open while they have to do something in their personal lives.”
The organization moved its intake center from Joerschke Drive to the current location in April 2012.
The center cares for small mammals and birds from Nevada, Sutter, Butte and Yuba counties and receives no stipend for transportation costs.
Such dedication is for not only the care of the birds but the environment as a whole, organizers said.
“In the circle of life, everything is connected,” said Myers. “If anything is taken out of that circle, it won’t work and we will all eventually die.”
Koskey cited turkey vultures as an example, which are commonly shot by humans for target practice. But vultures eat carrion, and without them, rotting carcasses, which carry disease, would be more prevalent.
A declining bird population would also mean a rise in rodents, she said.
The organization also seeks to reduce and reverse the damages done by humans, said Goodban.
The organizers cited examples of birds who would not have survived without someone calling Wildlife Rehab.
One successful rehab involved a red-tailed hawk named Curly, who flew into the grill of a car and survived the journey from Grass Valley proper to South County. Curly was rehabilitated and released about a month later, which was “pure joy,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release President Laurel Gunderson.
“All the care and time and food and medicine … to let them go is just beautiful,” she said.
A barn owl named Steamer survived after falling from his nest and landing in a fresh cow plop, Koskey said. He broke his tibia and acquired a bone infection. Steamer cannot be released but can be used for educational purposes, she said.
All volunteers are licensed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for and release native wildlife. All current organizers received training from the University of Minnesota, which has a world-famous raptor center, Koskey said. They also undergo training at the local level, including training provided by the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators, which hosts a statewide seminar every year.
Ol’ Republic Brewery at 124 Argall Way, Nevada City, is hosting a fundraiser, 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 14 from which 10 percent of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to Wildlife Rehab & Release. The educational birds of prey will be present for the event.
Wildlife Rehab & Release asks that calls about abandoned or injured birds be directed to board President Laurel Gunderson at 530-277-2121 to avoid the cost the organization pays for using its emergency line.
For information, visit http://cawildlife911.org.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.