Out of the wild to full-time mom

A change in direction for Beth Caskie, former California Wildlife Center executive director.

By Cortney Litwin/Special to The Malibu Times

Plainly reluctant to leave an organization she has come to love and respect, Beth Caskie last week resigned as executive director of the California Wildlife Center to take on another beloved job-that of full-time mom to her two boys: Jack, 4 and Danny, 2.

Caskie said she feels incredibly fortunate this past year and a half to have been at the helm of CWC, a 6-year-old nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates wildlife from Malibu and surrounding areas.

“It’s hard for me to leave,” Caskie said. “It’s a great organization and it’s going somewhere.”

“She did an amazing job,” said veterinarian Lynn Whited, director of animal care for the CWC. “She got the Prescott Grant so we could get two full-time marine mammal responders,” allowing for faster and more therapeutic rescues of seals and sea lions in Malibu. The $100,000 grant, awarded jointly to CWC and the city of Malibu in October, was the largest grant or contribution in CWC’s history. Caskie also led the grant writing for the recent $80,000 Annenberg Grant for an education director, who has yet to be hired.

Another talent Caskie brought to the CWC, essential for the organization, was in “keeping our relations good with agencies [such as State Parks] and local communities,” Whited said. “And she also got CWC involved with On the Edge, an organization that collaborates with other environmental groups to teach people how to live with wildlife.”

Caskie’s passion for helping animals is obvious. Before her boys were born, she worked for several years as program director for the local ASPCA, which primarily helps domesticated animals. Then came the call of the wild.

Wildlife rehab, which she describes as “exemplary,” has always fascinated the 38-year-old. “It’s completely unselfish,” she said. “This is the one helping area where you don’t have a bond so that the wild animal can stay wild. You do what you can do and then you step out of it.”

The wilderness was a special part of her upbringing in Fairfax, Va. “My parents were big on animals and the outdoors,” she said.

Caskie, then a young aspiring actress, attended Northwest University to study theater, where she met her husband, Ian Murray. Both moved out of state after graduation and agreed to go their separate ways. But it was clear they couldn’t bear to be parted and have been together-for 17 years—ever since.

Then along came the boys, and recently, Ian’s new sales job, which takes him out of town for part of the week.

As for acting … “Ian and I bailed out of that when we were in our 20s,” Caskie said. Her career path eventually took her back to the wilderness-in Los Angeles.

When asked what she is most proud of during her time at CWC, she immediately says her greatest reward came from acknowledging the altruistic staff, volunteers and members who make up the CWC. She especially mentioned Whited and board member Victoria Harris, who are “taking on more than is frankly comfortable.”

And the hardest part?

Finances-even for the bare necessities. “We are short on time and money-all the time,” Caskie said.

Although the reserves are too low at this point, she said the center desperately needs a hospital manager/surgical assistant, which would allow Whited to do more-and get some time off (“she works 12 hours a day sometimes, not because she wants to, but because she has to”). Last year, the center took in more than 2,000 animals, a 29.8 percent increase from the previous year.

The two recent grants have helped, but they aren’t for operating funds, which are the most difficult to raise and pay for everything that makes the center run efficiently, from paperclips to fire and liability insurance as well as the salaries of the few paid staff members not covered by the grants.

If there’s not enough staff and volunteers, sick or abandoned animals have to be turned away, a fact that saddens Caskie. “Every animal needs attention, every day. If you’re going to step in and impose yourself on that wild animal, you’d better honor your intentions, you’d better be able to deliver,” she emphasized.

An endowment, she said, would be a godsend.

For now, Caskie will continue to stay involved with the CWC by volunteering part time-when she isn’t being mom to Jack and Danny.

The CWC’s open house will take place on Sept. 26, noon to 4 p.m. at 26026 Piuma Road, off Malibu Canyon Road.

CWC can receive contributions via www.californiawildlifecenter.org or by mailing to P.O. Box 2022, Malibu, CA 90265.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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