By Dave Schwab
About 10,000 orphaned and injured wild animals — mostly babies — are handled annually by Project Wildlife, which hosted its ninth annual “baby shower” March 3 to alert San Diegans that breeding season is nearly here.
“We had our free baby shower so everybody got a chance to see what we’re doing, and to give them a chance to bring us some donations,” said Lauren DuBois, director of wildlife rehabilitation for the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS). “We had different booths set up with our animal ambassadors (mainly raptors), while giving tours of our facility and triage areas (not open to public) to give people an opportunity to see what’s going on inside and the work we do. We just wanted people to come out and have a fun time.”
One aim of the shower was to collect the supplies needed to provide treatment, care and nourishment to wildlife until they are well enough to be released back into their natural habitat.
As a program of San Diego Humane Society, the mission of Project Wildlife, headquartered at 887 1/2 Sherman St. in Linda Vista, is to improve the quality of life for local wildlife and the community as the primary resource for animal rehabilitation and conservation education.
Since 1972, Project Wildlife’s staff and volunteers have given injured, orphaned and sick wild animals — 8,000 to 10,000 birds and mammals each year — a second chance at life, making it one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation organizations nationally.
Lots of families, kids and dogs checked out the booths, fawning over the animal ambassadors at the March 3 event.
Of the animal ambassadors, DuBois said, “These are all animals that have been brought into project wildlife with an injury and they cannot be returned to the wild, because they would not survive, so they’ve become ambassadors.”
DuBois pointed to one such ambassador, Luna the Western Screech Owl.
“She is blind in her left eye, and deaf in her left ear, as she sustained head trauma as a baby,” she said. “We think she might have been hit by a car. Because of the eye injury, she wouldn’t survive in the wild. So she was turned over to us, and now is an ambassador.
“Preserving our wildlife is of critical importance, not just for the sake of the animal, but for conserving our beautiful environment,” added DuBois. “Each and every animal plays an important part in making up this ecosystem, so it’s crucial that they all get the care they need.”
Project Wildlife had “several messages” to deliver at its March baby shower.
“One is that this is a very diverse area for wildlife with lots of animals in your backyard you may, or may not see, but that you should be aware of — opossums, skunks, raccoons, songbirds and hummingbirds, etc.” said DuBois adding, “They do get injured, like babies falling out of nests learning to fly.”
Education is also a big part of the mission of Project Wildlife, like cautioning people tree trimming at the wrong time of year threatens animals.
“We encourage people not to do any tree trimming anytime between spring and summer, do it in the fall and winter when the animals are not breeding in there,” said DuBois adding bats, as well as birds, frequently nest in trees.
Another teachable moment for Project Wildlife and DuBois is instructing people on what to do if they find an injured animal, say a raptor with a broken wing.
“Get a box to put them in, grab some leather gardening gloves and a towel,” counseled DuBois.” Pick them up in a towel, put them in that box, and bring them right over to us, and we’ll take care of them.”
Throughout spring and summer, Project Wildlife will rely heavily on hundreds of rehab volunteers to help care for such a high volume of orphaned and injured wildlife. Last year, more than 13,000 wild animals received rehabilitative care from the organization.
For more information visit projectwildlife.com.
— Reach Dave Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.