From a motherless litter of coyote pups to baby birds that need ’round-the-clock feedings every 45 minutes, the California Wildlife Center (CWC) rescues, rehabilitates and then releases local injured and abandoned animals.
The nonprofit group, located off Malibu Canyon Road, has a contract with the City of Malibu to be available for emergency response 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This year so far, the CWC has rescued nearly 1,400 animals, mainly in Malibu and Los Angeles County, including 140 possums, 120 squirrels, 41 California sea lions, seven northern elephant seals, one dolphin, 35 brown pelicans and a colorful assortment of songbirds and raptors.
Discovered in a drainage pipe at a golf course near Pismo Beach, a litter of five abandoned coyotes, 6 to 8 weeks old, were brought to the center, treated, raised and then set free last month near their birthplace. When the CWC took in the pups, “they could fit in the palm of your hand,” Acting Executive Director Victoria Harris said.
The coyotes’ release was a complicated undertaking. The center had to find a location that was OK’d by the Department of Fish and Game as well as the property owner. Then, a team of volunteers caravanned to the location to release the pack-a nine-hour trip.
Four fawns, including one that was hit by a car in Carbon Canyon last May, were rehabilitated at the center and will be released this week in Liberty Canyon. The challenge, Harris said, was preparing the deer for the wild without a bond developing with their caregivers.
A big step forward for the center was hiring a full-time veterinarian, Dr. Lynn Whited, this past July.
“The animals we’re working on are unique,” the soft-spoken vet said.
A transplant from the East Coast, she spent two years in Virginia as a wildlife veterinarian, after nine years in general practice and ER work.
A sharp-shinned hawk suffering from a broken wing was brought to the center’s hospital, a small room with an examining table, an incubator, cages of recuperating animals and a huge, shiny anesthesia machine that was donated by Kaiser Permanente Hospital last month. Whited deftly wrapped the hawk’s wing while an assistant held the small, feisty raptor, which gave the assistant’s gloved hand a parting nip as she placed it in a cage.
The hawk’s fracture has healed. It will be undergoing physical therapy, Whited said, which includes extending and stretching the wing in preparation for flight.
California State Parks owns the 3.5-acre facility, which was co-founded by Aaron Frank, president of the CWC, in 1998. The dedicated staff of animal lovers includes two paid employees and about 40 active volunteers.
With no state or federal money, the organization runs entirely on donations and grants, including a $3,500 grant from Malibu this year. The center’s 2002 budget was $165,000, Harris said, a fraction of the estimated $300,000-$350,000 budget for 2003, which would include a wildlife education program with a director overseeing the curriculum for elementary school children.
When asked what’s most challenging about running the center, Frank replied, “We’re restricted by how we can help by our resources.”
More equipment is needed-with an X-ray machine at the top of the list.
“What would be really great is to do onsite
X-rays to diagnose the animal rather than having to cart the animal to another veterinarian,” Whited said. “X-rays help us get an immediate diagnosis to determine the injury better” such as seeing inside a seabird that has ingested a fishhook, she said.
Whited has a vision of having enough equipment for the center to qualify as a teaching facility, where veterinary students could participate as interns.
Actor Ed Begley Jr. will be one of the celebrities honored for his environmental efforts during “Wild Hearts,” the center’s annual gala fundraiser on Nov. 16 at the Gray Whale restaurant in Malibu.
“I just want to help out,” Begley Jr. said during the CWC’s open house last month. “What the Wildlife Center is most interested in is rehabilitating animals and getting them back into the wild, where they belong.”
The fundraiser will also honor actor Loretta Swit and environmentalist Patty Shenker and will feature a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, silent and live auctions and a raffle-of only 100 tickets at $100 each-for a trip to Paris.
The event is $150 per person, or $1,200 for a table for eight, and begins at 6 p.m. For reservations, call 818.591.9453.
For animal emergencies, call the CWC hotline at 310.458.WILD.
California Wildlife Center wish list
- Separate critical care unit for onsite surgeries with an X-ray machine and surgical equipment. Cost: $17,000 – $20,000
- Songbird aviary large enough for flight testing and conditioning
- A 22- to 24-foot mobile home to be used as a quarantine facility and for evacuation of the animals in case of disaster
- Small-mammal enclosure
- Surveillance cameras and video monitors for the outdoor enclosures
- Supplies such as food, lumber and cleaning, and services such as carpen- try, electrical and plumbing
To make a donation, call 818.591.9453.