Volunteers find reward in seeing ‘rehabbed’ mammal or bird returned to the wild
Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release
Intake Center, 809 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
Volunteer recruitment and information sessions:
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 22
3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 23
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 27
Exact times for training sessions in March will be announced in the coming weeks.
Rusty, a red-shouldered hawk, was found starving on the ground and blind in one eye.
Chester, a great horned owl, was rescued after being caught in barbed wire. Skyehawk, a red-tailed hawk, had been shot in Ojai, and Steamer the barn owl only survived because he fell from the nest as a baby into a warm cow patty.
Sir Winston Churchill, a black crow, had been kidnapped by college students who abandoned him in their dorm once summer rolled around. Due to his lack of interaction with other crows, Winston’s convinced he’s a person, say his keepers.
Despite their tragic beginnings, these beautiful creatures have gone on to play an important role as educational ambassadors for the nonprofit Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release (WR&R), which is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Each year the group provides care for more than a thousand birds and mammals, and successfully releases over 100 different species of native wildlife — including small mammals, songbirds, raptors and bats — back into the wild.
Only a few birds like Chester, Rusty and Skyehawk — once it’s been determined they cannot survive in the wild — become an integral part of educational outreach programs at schools, service organizations, and community events. But come spring, many more birds and small mammals that have been rescued will not be out in public, but in the care of the dedicated staff and volunteers of WR&R. While the nonprofit is fully permitted and monitored by both the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, they receive no federal or state funding. With a modest annual budget of $80,000, WR&R depends solely on memberships, donations, grants and fundraisers to survive. But most importantly, they cannot do what they do without volunteers.
“We’re closed September through March due to lack of volunteers, not animals. And it is only the intake center that is closed at the time. WR&R as a whole is open for calls and rescues all year long,” said Karen Koskey, chair of the WR&R’s education team. “But numbers go up significantly in the spring. Even now we’re expecting baby owls. People kidnap them, just as they do rabbits, because they think they’ve been abandoned. But they’re not — their mothers come back at night to feed them. June is the most busy because birds start to fledge and fall from the nest. People bring them to us instead of putting them back in the nest. You can’t do that with rabbits and fawns because of the scent, but you can with birds.”
The 2,600-square-foot facility in the Glenbrook Basin is home to a meeting room, songbird room, mammals room (for squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, baby foxes and the occasional flying squirrel), a triage/exam room for injured animals, a kitchen (the average owl eats five to six mice a day) and a front office. Some older birds and squirrels are kept in people’s homes.
This year, WR&R is in need of as many as 80 volunteers in anticipation of a busy spring. As a result, it will be hosting a series of volunteer recruitment and information sessions on Feb. 22, 23 and 27 at its intake center on Maltman Drive in Grass Valley. The meetings will explain the different roles volunteers can play, such as working at the intake center, participating in educational programs and community events, fundraising, helping to feed the babies, clerical and administrative tasks, transporting wildlife for care to veterinarians or other facilities or “rehabbing” songbirds, raptors, bats and small mammals. Those wishing to work directly with wild animals must be at least 18 and will be required to fill out an application and go through a basic screening process. Most volunteers work one four-hour shift a week, said WR&R president Bev Myers. Trainings are scheduled for March, with exact times to be determined.
“All of our volunteer positions are important — there’s a spot for everyone,” added Myers. “Volunteers can choose their own schedules. It’s very rewarding — we all love what we do.”
“For me, the most rewarding part of WR&R has been working with the birds of prey,” said Koskey. “They come to us when they have been shot or starving, about to die. Then, after we’ve cared for them, we take them back to where they were found and let them go. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4203.
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