Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network sees a longtime dream come true
For more than 30 years, the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has been saving and helping wild animals from all over Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — with limited resources and in cramped facilities.
The nonprofit’s job just got a lot easier.
In February, SBWCN had a soft opening for the 5,400 square-foot Wendy McCaw Wildlife Hospital.
It’s the realization of a dream that the Wildlife Care Network has had since the nonprofit started its work in 1988.
There will be a virtual open house in late April or May, when the public will be able to take a virtual tour of the state-of-the-art Goleta hospital. There is also a formal ribbon cutting ceremony being planned.
The hospital was opened just in time for “baby season.”
“Babies come in the spring,” Ariana Katovich, executive director of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, told the News-Press. “This is the busiest time of year for our team with thousands of animals in need of care.
“We have hundreds of patients in care at one time, up to 50 can arrive per day,” she said. “These animals require constant care and feeding. Baby birds alone need to be fed every 30 minutes from dawn to dusk.
“This adds up to thousands of feedings each week for baby birds alone,” Ms. Katovich said.
The new hospital includes a songbird room, an oil wildlife response room, an animal kitchen, mammal nursery and intensive care unit aviaries, shorebird and seabird pools, surgery room, X-ray suite, intake and exam room, and a veterinary program.
“We also have a veterinarian on site performing procedures and diagnostics as well as providing advanced wound care and pain control,” said Ms. Katovich.
SBWCN has developed a trend of receiving more and more animals each year. The new hospital will allow the nonprofit to keep more patients from initial intake to release, rather than transferring patients to partners. More patients stay with SBWCN for longer now and receive more complex treatment.
“We are an emergency room and long-term care facility,” said Ms. Katovich.
She also explained what people should do if they find an injured animal in the wild.
First, she said, call SBWCN’s helpline at 805-681-1080.
“We will either answer that line, or if we don’t answer, we check the messages every 15-20 minutes,” she said. “We will give you advice on what to do from there. There are also flow charts available on our website (sbwcn.org) that have information regarding specific animals and what to do if they are found injured in the wild.”
She said some animals should never be touched because they could be carrying diseases. They include bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and bobcats. If you find one of these injured, call SBCWN’s helpline or an animal control office right way, Ms. Katovich said.
“We also have rescue and transport volunteers available,” she said.
More than 200 species of animals are brought in every year to the Wildlife Care Network, Ms. Katovich said.
“We receive dozens to hundreds of calls everyday. People call and bring us animals directly,” she said. “Then we examine the animal and develop a treatment program.
“”Our goal is to return animals back to wildlife,” Ms. Katovich said. “We help all birds and mammals with the exception of mountain lions, adult deer, bears, boars and marine mammals.”
Current baby animals in the hospital’s care include seven skunks, 15 bunnies, 11 baby possums, two baby raccoons, 29 squirrels and nine hummingbird chicks.
Ms. Katovich told one success story about the rescue of an owl.
“We received a great horned owl that was suffering from rodenticide poisoning and had been shot,” she said. “He was suffering from a very significant eye injury, brought late one evening and immediately put in a unit with oxygen and heat.
“Over a period of several weeks, our staff was able to do several successful surgeries and procedures and get it to eat and successfully release the owl,” Ms. Katovich said. “A few years ago, we would not have been able to take care of that animal the way we did. It shows resilience of wild animals and the care and compassion it takes to rescue the animals.
“We have hundreds of success stories of releasing everything from pelicans, to bunnies to possums,” said Ms. Katovich.
The SBWCN would like to provide some tips for protecting wildlife:
— Only trim trees in the fall or winter.
— Keep cats inside.
— Avoid using rodenticide.
— Avoid accidentally taking babies who don’t need to be rescued by calling the SBCWCN’s helpline (805-681-1080).
Ms. Kavotich is glad to have the new hospital up and running.
“We are grateful to the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation, our donors and the community of volunteers, rescuers and staff who have made this project happen,” Ms. Kavotich said. “This building will serve wildlife for many baby seasons to come.”
To learn more, go to www.sbwcn.org/wildlifehospital.
You can donate at the link above or by mailing a check to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, 1460 N. Fairview Ave, Goleta. You can also sponsor an animal in care.
Wendy McCaw is co-publisher of the News-Press.