Ribbon cutting takes place at Wendy McCaw Wildlife Hospital
A Friday ribbon cutting in the foothills of Goleta marked the realization of a goal held by the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network since its inception in 1988: opening a dedicated hospital to provide wildlife the care they need to get back on their paws, claws or talons and return to the wild.
The new Wendy McCaw Wildlife Hospital, which services Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, features 5,500 square feet of space that includes an oil response room, mammal enclosure, animal kitchen to prepare feedings for the hospital’s furred and feathered patients, songbird and mammal nurseries, shorebird pools, and spaces dedicated to the Goleta hospital’s human workers and volunteers.
Ms. McCaw, who was a major contributor to the wildlife hospital that now bears her name, is the co-publisher of the News-Press.
“We’re just a completely different animal now,” Gretchen Lieff, the vice president of SBWCN’s board of directors, told the News-Press. “When the hospital wasn’t there, we had just one building and trailers, and (it) was a very challenging work environment. Now we can do much more to help the animals, and that’s just so gratifying after years of not having the facility that we needed. It’s very emotional to me. We’re saving more animal lives because of this facility.”
SBWCN Executive Director Ariana Katovich echoed Ms. Lieff’s sentiments during her remarks at the ceremony, expressing that the new wildlife hospital marked a new and improved era in the organization’s mission.
“We have a new foundation from which to build, which is just the most exciting thing,” Ms. Katovich said. “When I came to this property in 2017, I was astounded at how much was being done in one room and one little space (and) watching the staff take their lunch breaks on milk crates, I just really couldn’t believe it.
“Our impact collectively will be reflected and honored in every single animal rescued, rehabilitated and released in our community for decades to come.”
The new facility can host between 300 and 600 animals at a time depending on the type of animals being treated, according to Ms. Katovich, and will service every type of wildlife found in the region with the exception of marine mammals, bears, and adult cougars and deer, which will continue to be handled by other partner organizations.
The new facility’s capacity was quickly tested after the wildlife hospital became operational in February when it hosted and rehabilitated 270 pelicans in May and June in response to a mass-starvation event that caused over 700 of the seafaring birds to wash up on the shores of Southern California. The cause of that event is still under investigation by wildlife officials.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony gave the opportunity for attendees to see the organization in action as staff and volunteers began moving a family of raccoons from the facility to be released back into the wild — a fitting event given that the animals were known to be a favorite of the late Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, who was another generous backer of the project.
In a video message recorded prior to her passing on Oct. 4 of this year, the beloved Santa Barbara philanthropist expressed her elation for the new facility and the impact it would have today and for future generations.
“I’m so excited about this project, can’t wait for it to be finished,” she said during the video. “This (wildlife hospital) is a blessing to the community, to the animals and to everyone. It is for the future, it’s for now, it’s for children, it’s for adults. It’s for the community. It’s a joyous, happy beginning … It’s been a long time coming, thank goodness it’s here!”