On March 19, about 150 supporters of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) gathered for its annual Benefit for Wildlife luncheon at the Biltmore. Funds raised support the SBWCN’s mission of rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned birds, small mammals, and reptiles in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Neither the City of Santa Barbara nor the County rehabilitates these creatures so the work of this organization is critically important.
Guests mingled over the extensive silent auction offerings before being seated in the Loggia Room for lunch. Board President Roland Bryan welcomed the guests and explained how the SBWCN began in 1988 as a network of volunteers providing in-home care for rescued wildlife. In 2004, a capital campaign was launched and in 2012, the network opened its current facility, a 1.8 acre wildlife rehabilitation center on North Fairview Avenue in Goleta.
Guest speaker Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block lauded the mission and work of SBWCN. He discussed the importance and complexity of conservation and how SBWCN, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and others each play an integral role. Block discussed the zoo’s work with island foxes, California condors, sea otters, snowy plovers, and red-legged frogs. Ojai Raptor Center Director Kim Stroud, with an owl perched beside her, also talked about the community of organizations working so well together here, with her organization taking in about 1,000 birds each year.
A video presentation shared some examples of rescued creatures, including birds with fishing hooks on their beaks or wings and birds with fishing lines constraining their wings or shutting their mouths. Sadly, sometimes the birds suffer for days before the network is notified. After proper care, including medication and nourishment, the birds recover and are released back into the wild.
The network provides care for 3,000 to 4,000 creatures each year, with songbirds being the largest demographic, followed by seabirds and raptors. About 20 percent of “clients” are mammals — raccoons, skunks, opossums, rabbits, squirrels and coyotes, and the network takes in a handful of reptiles as well. The network receives no government funding and functions with a small staff and about 80 volunteers. A helpline alerts the network to wildlife in need of care. Last year, it received about 10,000 calls. For the Refugio oil spill, SBWCN acted as the stabilization site for contaminated wildlife until it reached its capacity. In addition to its rescue and recovery work, SBWCN also makes presentations to community groups, schools, and senior centers.
SBWCN is especially in need of volunteers (age 18 and older) right now because baby season begins next month when the wildlife numbers will spike. During baby season, the SBWCN has up to 150 baby birds that need to be fed by volunteers every half hour. Generally, volunteers help with transport and rescue, animal care, and phone response. SBWCN, of course, is also in need of donations. For more information, go to sbwcn.org. For a video about SBWCN, go to vimeo.com/209147212.
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By Gail Arnold