|Funding dwindles for animal rescue agency
SCWR faces cutbacks if cash flow remains slow
By Kaydon Coburn
A local organization known for saving the lives of wild animals needs rescuing itself.
“We’re hoping somebody can come to our rescue and help us. It’s really bad. We are very concerned,” said an emotional Doris Duncan, executive director of the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
The Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR) center must raise more than $320,000 a year to keep the center running smoothly and efficiently, according to Duncan. Almost $900 a day is needed to operate the facility and staff. Based in west Sonoma County, SCWR is a non-profit organization consisting of a small full- and part-time staff that is assisted by a large volunteer staff.
The center currently faces a $170,000 deficit.
“We just don’t have the money this year,” Duncan said. “It’s getting pretty bad and we’re all kind of worried. It’s always teetering on the brink of what are we going to do. Are we going to have to stop taking in animals?”
Duncan is currently deciding whether or not to accept anymore new animals or “spring babies” this season. The animals not admitted to the center would be deferred to Santa Rosa Animal Control and most likely be euthanized.
Duncan explains when she began as a volunteer 17 years ago, “The center back then, we were only taking in about 60 animals a year. Our annual operating budget was about $8,000 a year. Now that we are operating out of a center that people can come in and bring animals, we’re taking in about 2,000 animals a year, and our operating costs are $320,000.”
One example of the cost increases Duncan mentions is the center once would get specialized food donated they now must pay for. The SCWR also has one of the highest “relief rates,” which results in more animals surviving, needing shelter and care.
“We’re very proud of that,” says Duncan. “I don’t feel it’s really worth putting out a lot of effort taking care of animals and rehabilitating them, unless we’re giving them the best chance they deserve.”
Adding to the center’s frustration is the fact the center is already understaffed and will not have funds to make new hires. They also have challenges meeting many grant eligibility criteria because of their uniqueness, Duncan said.
SCWR is “dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife and the promotion of understanding and appreciation of wildlife through our Education Outreach Program.”
The facility currently has more than 30 wildlife rehabilitation enclosures and eight wildlife exhibit enclosures, including a raccoon pond, a North American otter enclosure and currently needs volunteers to complete a large raptor recovery center.
Established in 1981, SCWR has since continued to grow and expand. Services include an educational outreach program dedicated to the promotion of understanding and appreciation of wildlife. Local schools, organizations and the general public benefit through presentations, tours, fairs and community markets, which teach about the wildlife center, and how to coexist peacefully with wildlife.
SCWR also has an exclusion service to assist the public with nuisance wildlife in a humane way rather than having wildlife trapped and euthanized unnecessarily. The exclusion technician helps homeowners and business owners evict the animals permanently from inside walls, under buildings, in attics, in eaves, and seals up the building to keep future animals from getting in.
SCWR relies on membership donations as the major funding for the organization. Cash donations: $20 feeds three baby raccoons for a week; $30 feeds five opossums for a week; $40 feeds one coyote for two weeks; $50 feeds four foxes for one week; and $60 feeds one red-tailed hawk for one month.
Duncan says if SCWR does not meet its current funding crisis, it will be forced to “lay off employees, cut down on costs…that would pretty much be a nightmare because then we would not have enough people to take care of the animals.”
“We explore everything. We don‘t have a plan in place right now,” Duncan said about their future fundraising campaign.
The SCWR center is currently seeking additional new board members and also is a member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. For more information on public or private tours, membership, to volunteer, or to donate online, go to www.scwildliferescue.org.