Wildlife Care Center gives injured, abandoned wildlife chance at life

Amber Hovey

Students and faculty may be familiar with the College of Veterinary Medicine’s small and large animal hospitals, but there is also the Wildlife Care Center, located in the basement of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The care center is staffed by five undergraduate students and survives on volunteers and donations, evident from the center’s small space and lack of equipment.

The first room is the size of a large office and is lined with counters and cupboards. The second is double the size but barren without the cages usually present. The third room is small with just enough space to walk inside and serves as a nursery for baby animals, such as rabbits, squirrels and birds, that are brought in. Because winter is approaching, the room is empty of babies, but it is fully equipped with ink cartridges and used cellphones. The center is collecting the items to trade them in for money.

This is just one of the many fundraising projects the center does.

The center takes about $65,000 a year to run, all of which comes from fundraising and donations, said Bianca Zaffarano, director of the Wildlife Care Center.

Harvey is an example of the help donations provide. Harvey, a Great Horned Owl, was hit by a car and brought to the center. His right wing was broken and his left eye was swollen, said Jacie Garden, senior in animal ecology and part of the head staff at the Wildlife Care Center.

Thanks to the donation to pay for his needed surgery and the volunteering of an ophthalmologist from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Harvey was able to have surgery to remove his left eye, Garden said.

The Wildlife Care Center is also forced to make “life-or-death decisions” because of the lack of funds. The kind of help an animal can be given comes down to the donations of money and services if the center can “scrape together the resources,” Zaffarano said.

Even the animals do their part in raising money.

Garden said the center currently has four permanent birds, including a Red Tail Hawk, a Barn Owl, an American Kestrel and an Eastern Screech Owl. The volunteers put on programs in which the public can pay to see the birds and listen to the volunteers as they talk about each bird.

With Christmas coming up, the center is setting up a “Giving Tree” where anyone can come take an ornament from the tree. On each ornament is an item the center needs. The person brings the item back and he or she can keep the ornament.

For Zaffarano and Garden, the center provides a chance for injured or abandoned wildlife and is great way to give back to the environment.

“[The center’s work] is a valuable bit of humanity [for wildlife],” Zaffarano said.