CWC gets “wild” with fundraiser

Albino pythons, tequila bars and an auction to release a rehabilitated hawk into the wild are some of the highlights of the California Wildlife Center’s annual “Wild Brunch” fundraiser, which is scheduled for Sunday.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

It’s that time of the year again. On Sunday, the California Wildlife Center will hold its 14th Annual “Wild Brunch” fundraiser. The nonprofit organization that acts as first responder for injured and threatened wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area hopes to raise one third to one half its operating budget for the year at an event that features gourmet cuisine, local wineries, high-profile auction items and, of course, input from wild creatures that might live in your back yard.

“The California Wildlife Center offers essential services to our community,” CWC Board President Victoria Harris said. “We live on the border of wilderness and encounter wildlife everyday. If we’re going to live in their back yard, we must learn to co-exist with these animals and that also means taking care of the injured.”

In fact, the CWC has taken in and rehabilitated nearly 30,000 animals since their facility opened in 1998. Before that, injured animals were transported to centers in Ojai and San Pedro. Harris has taken in a variety of mountain and marine animals, including deer, coyotes, bobcats, dolphins, sea lions, pelicans, red tailed hawks, crows, possums, squirrels, skunks, turkey vultures, mountain lions, owls, long tailed weasels, acorn woodpeckers, rabbits and titmice (which are actually birds).

This year alone, they’ve had to build four temporary aviaries to house a deluging population of birds before they can be released. Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought the CWC 26 ravens and two crows that had been confiscated from someone’s home, where they had been surviving on dog food and Doritos. It was “just another day,” Harris said.

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“It’s critical for people to know that we get absolutely no funding from any governmental source,” Harris went on. “This year alone we’ve taken in more than 3,100 animals ‘til now. Last year, we took in 3,700 for the whole year. So this fundraiser is a big part of our ability to operate.”

One of the main reasons for the increasing number of wildlife to come to their door is human encroachment. The Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area is the largest urban national park in the country. But wildlife suffers the effects of urban development, polluted environments (including demoic poisoning of marine animals), illegal trapping and higher numbers of people just enjoying the great outdoors.

Cindy Reyes is the executive director of the CWC and primary contact for community outreach. She spends a lot of time speaking to groups of school children and civic organizations about the imperative of learning to coexist with our local wildlife.

“The fact is, we’ve invaded their territory,” Reyes said. “To say that you don’t want a mountain lion in your back yard, when we’ve moved into their back yard, is kind of counterintuitive.”

Actually, the mountain lion population has been so decimated that chance encounters with one are highly unlikely, Reyes said. She recommends taking steps to make sure your back yard is not attractive to wildlife by bringing in small pets at night and restricting sources of food and water.

“The wild animals are not going anywhere, so we must live with them,” Reyes said. “And if you do happen to encounter a coyote or bobcat, relish it. Because their populations are at risk.”

Meanwhile, Harris promises plenty of “wild” fun at the fundraiser. Gourmet vegetarian cuisine (this is, after all, a fundraiser for animals) and dessert will be available from local restaurants, along with popular California wines, Patron Spirits fresh fruit tequila bars and Anheuser-Busch beer taps.

Children will have their own Wild Zone with buffet, art activities and educational animals. (“The 12-foot-long albino python is always a hit,” Harris said.)

And the live and silent auctions promise riches far beyond their bid price, including a Polar Bear Adventure, which flies the winner up to Canada to visit the largest known concentration of polar bears; a South African safari; trips to Bora Bora, Venice and Rome; or a week at the Biggest Loser Resort in Malibu.

The piece de resistance will go to one lucky bidder who will be allowed to release back into the wild a CWC-rehabilitated hawk.

Center volunteers will be on hand to discuss their work with rescued animals or help visitors should they decide to adopt an injured animal (adopt as in fund their rehabilitation-all wildlife are released back into the wild when healthy).

“Everyone’s a tough guy ‘til he comes across an injured animal,” Harris said. “We’re here to keep them healthy and keep a balance in nature.”

For “Wild Brunch” ticket information or to see videos of CWC wildlife rescues, visit their website at www.cawildlife.org

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