On a perfect Santa Barbara evening, about 60 supporters of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (WCN) gathered on Union Bank’s Anacapa Street scenic rooftop to kickoff the WCN’s annual fundraiser, Benefit for Wildlife, to be held this year on November 1 at the Carriage and Western Art Museum.
The WCN rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds, small mammals, reptiles, and other wildlife. A 24/7 hotline receives about 10,000 calls each year.
At this Rosé on the Roof soirée, guests enjoyed La Lieff rosé wine (donated by Event Co-chair and Board Vice President Gretchen Lieff), scrumptious paella cooked on the spot by SB Paella Catering, and other food and beverage offerings.
Guests, who included event committee members, staff, boardmembers, sponsors, and other supporters, were welcomed by Board Chair Roland Bryan, who explained how the organization began as a network of concerned volunteers and then evolved into a nonprofit with staff and volunteers. He related how during the Refugio Oil Spill, all the affected birds came through the WCN’s facility, but because of its facility’s limitations, the birds had to be transported to Los Angeles for further rehabilitation.
Bryan shared the exciting news that in recognition of the vulnerability of our coastline to oil spills, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) earlier this year donated $250,000 to the WCN to build a new facility. The WCN has a $5.5 million capital campaign underway, with about 10 percent of funding secured.
Executive Director Ariana Katovich thanked supporters and shared how busy this year has been, with the organization already having rescued 3,656 animals, compared to 3,297 for all of last year. She praised the work of the 250+ regular volunteers, who help with tasks such as transporting oiled birds to Los Angeles for further rehabilitation and feeding baby birds, which require feeding at 20- to 30-minute intervals.
Neither the City of Santa Barbara nor the County rehabilitates birds or the other wildlife that WCN handles, making the work of this organization critically important. Other than some $2,000 grants from the City of Goleta over the years and the OWCN grant, the WCN has not received any government funding.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is a statewide collective of 40 organizations. The grant to WCN comes from an award to OWCN of funds from a litigation settlement involving a pipeline rupture.
The $5.5 million capital campaign will fund the construction of a wildlife hospital and improvements to aviaries and sea bird pools, endow a veterinarian position, and pay for ongoing expenses during the capital campaign and construction. Currently, the WCN operates out of a 500 square foot building and two trailers on North Fairview Avenue in Goleta.
The new facility will have more dedicated wash stations to enhance WCN’s oil spill response capability and it will have a larger space for baby bird rehabilitation. When WCN was evacuated during the Holiday Fire, it discovered that having a larger, temporary ventilated space at the S.B. Humane Society lead to increased survival rates, so having extra space is more than an issue of comfort. The design phase is nearly complete and the hope is to have permits secured by Fall 2020.
The WCN serves all of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, with 89 percent of the animals from S.B. County. Nearly 80 percent of the animals are birds, with large numbers of pelicans, mallards, western gulls, and songbirds. About 20 percent of the animals are small mammals including rabbits, raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, and coyotes.
The Wildlife Helpline is 805-681-1080. For more info about the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network or to purchase tickets for the Benefit for Wildlife, go to sbwcn.org.