Tucson Wildlife Center
If you have ever come across an injured animal on the road, or a baby animal with no mother in sight, you know the range of emotions and questions that flood through your head! Thankfully we have the Tucson Wildlife Center here to help us navigate these problems, and to help us decide how or even if we should intervene. This impressive 5103C nonprofit organization is celebrating a 20 year history of caring for wildlife received from 8 Arizona counties! Its annual operating budget is $500,000, raised from grants, donations and an annual fundraiser gala.
To learn more, 14 Master Naturalists toured the facility on October 20, led by Suzanne Benedict and Lou Rae Whitehead. The 5 acre facility receives 20,000 phone calls a year, takes in more than 3,400 animals treated by 2 full time vets, staff and volunteers. We were privileged to a behind the scenes tour which included indoor and outdoor holding areas, 3 huge flight cages, and a well-equipped hospital with an ICU and surgical suite.
Animal caretakers exercise great care not to imprint wildlife on humans. Handlers hide in ghillie suites while feeding baby animals, and use shift doors that let the animal in or outdoors without a person in view. Imprinted, or tame animals cannot be released. Some animals that have arrived at the center, unfortunately tamed by well-meaning citizens, are used as education animals and surrogates. We met Wilbur, the 13 year old bobcat and center mascot. His fellow bobcat companions, Rubie and Bisbee, serve as excellent surrogate parents to bobcat kittens brought in, teaching them natural bobcat behaviors and reducing the need for human contact. Young coyotes and javelinas also benefit from surrogate resident animals.
The center takes in almost all species except deer, bears, mountain lions, dogs, cats and rattlesnakes. Gila monsters and non-venomous snakes are accepted. Their busiest season is April through September and they are always in need of volunteers to assist with animal care, public education, and school and scout tours. The center’s wish list includes paper towels, white sheets and towels, unscented kitty litter, chicken thighs, Dawn dish liquid, baggies and trash bags, copier paper, fruits, vegetables, and turkey or banana baby food.
What can you do to help wildlife in your own backyard? Keep bird baths and feeders clean, empty hummingbird feeders that have black mold, or cloudy nectar; put baby birds back up in the nest or create an artificial nest with drainage holes for rain. Keep pet cats indoors at all times, trim hedges in the fall, not spring; don’t use glue traps; turn outdoor ceiling fans off at night to protect bats and don’t interfere with any wildlife without calling the center for advice first!
Learn more at tucsonwildlife.com or by calling 520-290-WILD (9453) which answers 24/7. Master Naturalists attending were Barbara Gaynor, Cameron Becker, Carrie Barcom, Deb Huie, Don Featherstone, Jane Davenport, Jean Boris, Julie Hallbach, Mack Consigney, Marilyn Liss, Penny Miller, Sharon Overstreet and Franklin Lane.
Our featured image has Master Naturalist, Carrie Barcom, dressed in one of TWC’s camouflage ghillie suit!