Have you ever come across a baby bird that’s fallen from its nest, or a wounded animal, scared and in pain, needing immediate medical attention? If so, you knew you had to act fast to save the poor creature, but did you know where to turn? With budgets stretched to their breaking point, neither the City nor the County of Sacramento has the resources to care for wild birds and animals needing help. The Department of Fish and Game, S.P.C.A., and local zoos are in the same leaky boat. For the most part, it’s up to Wildlife Care Association & Education Center (WCA) to come to the animals’ rescue. Luckily for our animal friends, rescue them they do.
For over thirty years, WCA has been caring for sick, injured and orphaned birds and animals here in the Sacramento Valley. Every year, the organization comes to the aid of between 6000 and 8000 creatures (70% of which are birds) that have faced life-threatening hardships -- like Nala, a Great Horned Owl who was found caught in a barbed wire fence, her wing broken beyond repair. Or Kenni, the blind Screech Owl who was found “bloody and near death” but who went on to live a long and healthy life, serving as a surrogate mother to orphaned owls. Not only do animals survive under the care of WCA, they thrive.
Despite their reputation as the Einsteins of the avian arena, owls often find themselves in trouble, making up a large portion of WCA’s raptor inhabitants. The organization’s President, Theresa Bielawski, confides that, “Owls are actually not very wise. Barn Owls have a tendency to build their nests in areas that are large enough for the eggs, but once the birds hatch and start getting bigger, the nest becomes too small and they start falling out.” When asked about the owls’ odds of surviving, she adds, “Although we have no way to gauge it, their chance of survival is very high. What they lack in intelligence they make up for in predatory instinct.”
In spite of the ever-rising cost of caring for these critters, WCA is funded completely by donations and largely staffed by a dedicated team of volunteers. Once WCA has nursed them back to health or they’ve reached a point where they’re able to fend for themselves, the creatures are released back into the wild. Thus WCA’s slogan, “Giving animals a second chance at life.”
In a strained economy, WCA has had to think outside the box to come up with new means of raising money. Beyond the traditional donations WCA receives, they also acquire much-needed funds via their Animal Adoption Program and the free but donation-welcoming School Outreach Program. One of the more unique fund raising efforts is their Owl Release Program. Local winemakers have realized that a healthy owl population is an effective means of rodent control. WCA brings owls that are ready for release to local vineyards, where the owls readily establish new homes. The owls wind up well fed, the wineries have less vermin to deal with, and WCA gets a donation to help assure continued operations. It’s a win-win-win situation. In 2010 alone, WCA released twenty rehabilitated owls, including Western Screech Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Barn Owls. This year, they're expanding the program beyond wineries, offering the program to private property owners with land suitable for owl habitat.
Beyond the care and rehabilitation of wildlife, another focus of the organization is the education of the public. WCA strives to enlighten people about the local fauna and foster a healthy respect and appreciation for the creatures that, like us, call the Sacramento Valley home. They succeed by providing the public unique opportunities to interact with the animals WCA has come to care for. And your chance for a close encounter with these amazing creatures is coming right up!
On Saturday, July 28, Wild Birds & Gardens has invited WCA to bring a few of their “Ambassador Animals” to a special in-store event! Likely to be among the honored guests are Caesar the Western Screech Owl; Tana the Burrowing Owl; Bubba the Virginia Opossum, and more creatures to delight both young and old alike. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to Noon, is free to attend.
If you’re feeling generous but a busy social calendar prevents you from attending the event, you can still mail a tax-deductible donation to WCA at P.O. Box 680, North Highlands, CA 95660. If money’s tight, the organization is also in need of common household goods, such as batteries, Q-Tips, paper towels, and office supplies. (Check out their wish list.) Or better yet, volunteer some time to the organization and keep the WCA going strong. It’s bound to be a wildly rewarding experience.
For more information, please visit the WCA website at www.wildlifecareassociation.com.