Nestled among citrus and avocado groves in the Goleta Foothills, a small staff and an army of volunteers are working to provide a sanctuary for injured birds and small mammals.
The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has been “saving and serving wildlife since 1988,” according to its mission statement, and is prolific in helping injured animals in spite of maintaining a low profile.
Each year, the group receives about 6,000 calls and brings in about about 3,000 animals. About half of those animals are songbirds, while the rest are seabirds such as pelicans, gulls, loons and the like.
The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has been in its new facility at 1460 N. Fairview Ave. for almost a year, and is issuing a renewed call for volunteers to help care for animals.
The group relies on volunteers to do everything from answer phones and help with intake of animals to feeding, cleaning cages, and transporting them from where they’re found to the facility, according to Executive Director Julia Parker.
Parker recently gave Noozhawk a tour of their facility to get a firsthand look at the organization’s efforts.
The first stop was to have a look at six California brown pelicans sitting contentedly around a pool in the sunshine. The organization’s first phase of development at the Fairview site involved installing the sea-bird ponds inside two impressive aviaries.
Last summer, a shortage of bait fish up and down the California coast led to an influx of weak and sick pelicans, and Parker said that at one point the facility had about 100 pelicans in residence. Winter is also a busy time for seabirds coming into the facility because of winter storms that can hit the region and cause problems for animals.
Next door to the pelicans, in a second enclosure, was a beautiful mute swan, brought in from Lake Los Carneros because it was so weak that it couldn’t even get in and out of the water.
Parasites had been making the bird ill, and thanks to a course of antibiotics and tube feeding three times a day, the swan is gaining weight and getting stronger.
“He is so sweet,” Parker said.
As funding allows, Parker said she would like to see more cages put in for small mammals, as well an area for injured birds to do test flights.
The group is also fundraising to move out of the portable trailer being used as an office space, and to build a small two-story building for its offices as well as an entire floor for oil-spill response.
Funds for daily operating expenses are also always needed as the organization doesn’t receive any money from the city, state or federal agencies, Parker said.
Large birds weren’t the only ones calling the facility home.
Wandering into the organization’s indoor shelter, Parker introduced an adult mallard “that somebody tried to make a pet of” by putting it in a leather collar, which had chaffed its neck down to the skin. Its wings also had been cut.
A tiny brush bunny was next door, making a cozy home inside a tissue box in its crate.
Perhaps the most intriguing addition was that of a rough-skinned newt, a species not native to Southern California.
Parker said the amphibian had hitched a ride from Salem, Ore., inside a Christmas tree shipment to a South Coast home.
Because the animals must be released a mile from where they were found, Parker was working to arrange the newt a new home at a museum that had offered to care for it.
She encourages people who find injured animals to call the center and explain the situation, and staff can give input about how to best handle the animal.
For more information about how to volunteer or to donate to the efforts of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, click here or call 805.681.1080.