These are baby great-horned owls who fell out of a tall palm tree. We created a nest and affixed it to the same tree and the parents did the rest.
If the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is where you go to see live wildlife, and the International Wildlife Museum is where you go to see stuffed wildlife, the Tucson Wildlife Center is where you go to help injured wildlife.
Wildlife rescue is what they do at Tucson Wildlife Center. So far this year (September 2014), TWC has received over a thousand injured or abandoned wild animals. Their motto: Rescue – Rehabilitate – Release.
The Center has 4 full-time ambulances that are available 24/7 to rescue all kinds of wildlife and bring them to the Center’s new state-of-the-art animal hospital for surgery or other treatment. Then the highly trained volunteer staff, under the supervision of volunteer veterinarians and other professionals, works – sometimes for weeks – to care for and rehabilitate injured critters. Ultimately the Center’s goal is to release their patients back into the wild from which they came … if they believe the animals can survive in their natural environment.
The Tucson Wildlife Center receives between 5,000 and 7,000 calls per year regarding injured or abandoned wildlife. These calls come from law enforcement, golf courses, ranchers and homeowners. They ask the Center, for example, to come pick up a javelina that was hit by a car, or a hawk with a broken wing, or a coyote that has been poisoned. Sometimes the call is for newborns, like bobcat twins Jack & Jill, who were abandoned by their mother.
The Story of Jack & Jill (as told by the TWC staff)
“Jack and Jill were found abandoned – cold, dehydrated, frail and extremely weak. Two littermates had already succumbed and Mom was nowhere to be found. We hoped it wasn’t too late to save these tiny bob kittens. We warmed and treated them for hypothermia, dehydration, and low blood sugar. They were highly traumatized and fearful of their new situation. Initially they were too weak to suckle, so we fed them with a syringe.
In time they became stronger and were able to drink special formula from a bottle. We wore bobcat masks so that the kittens would not imprint on humans.
After one week, Jack and Jill were strong enough to join Ruby, our resident bobcat and surrogate mother. It’s easy to see the love and devotion Ruby has for her adopted kittens.
They returned that love with abundance. Ruby raised them and taught them to stalk and hunt and move silently through the bushes. They were about eight months old and fully capable of taking care of themselves when they were successfully released back into the wild.”
Two of the Center’s animal care workers stitch up a wounded javelina after it was hit by a car.
When I visited the Center, I spoke with Dee Kidd, the Executive Director who started working here 5 years ago as a volunteer. She told me,
“The Tucson Wildlife Center was founded in 1998 by Lisa Bates and Pete Lininger. Lisa earned a rehab license and Pete built most of the enclosures. They added facilities as time and donations permitted.
Recently, the estate of Sam Goldman donated enough money to build a state-of-the-art hospital for wild animals. The Sam Goldman Wildlife Hospital opened for patients in April 2014, the only one of its kind in the Southern Arizona.
According to Dee, “With our new hospital, we are able to increase our capacity to help injured wildlife and with our new high-tech tools, such as our new X-ray machine, we are much faster and more efficient at diagnosing injuries and illnesses.”
Somehow Dee & I got on the subject of owls. I told Dee about one of my experiences at the Desert Museum’s Raptor Free-Flight Program. The hawks sometimes fly just a few feet above the crowd, so close we could hear the wind passing through their feathers.
But when a barn owl flew very close over our heads, we heard … nothing. We learned that owl feathers are much finer than hawk feathers and allow them to fly in complete silence. Talk about stealth predators!
My owl story reminded Dee of “Bubba”.
“Bubba”, a Great Horned owl, is one of the Tucson Wildlife Center’s educational owls. He fell out of his nest when he was just a baby and broke his wing. His fracture healed very well and eventually Bubba was released back into the wild.
Two weeks after his release, Bubba returned to the Center on his own. He was hungry and had not been able to feed himself.
When he was healthy again and put in the flight cage, the director of the Center discovered that although Bubba was able to fly and maneuver through the air flawlessly, his wings were no longer silent. Because of scarring, a critical serrated feather would never regrow on his wing. Silent flying is necessary for Great Horned Owls to hunt successfully – but Bubba sounds like a freight train!
Today, Bubba lives happily at the Center with 2 other owls. He goes with us to presentations all over the Tucson area.”
Wilbur Bobcat is Tucson Wildlife Center’s ambassador and mascot. He is a sanctuary animal. Generally, sanctuary animals reside at Tucson Wildlife Center because they could not be released into the wild and be expected to survive.
The TWC Mission
“The Tucson Wildlife Center is dedicated to the rescue, emergency medical care, rehabilitation, and release of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife, while promoting habitat protection and co-existence through education.”
Donations, Volunteers, & Programs
Tucson Wildlife Center receives no funds from any government agency. It relies on donations from folks like you & me. If you want to donate, or volunteer, or arrange a tour or educational program, call 520.290.WILD (9453). Call this same number to report an injured or orphaned wild animal.
I asked Dee why she and so many others go to the trouble of rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals. She told me, “mostly we deal with human-related injuries: hit by car, poisoned, etc. People cause these problems; so people have to be the solution.”
Amen to that.