THE NON-IDENTICAL WILDLIFE TWINS
OF SANTA FE COUNTY
By William BaxterSay you look out your window one morning and see a hawk flopping about in your back yard with a broken wing. Or you discover in the road in front of your house a deer struggling, unable to stand, possibly hit by a car. Or you find a very sick bobcat in your woodshed, but not so sick that it can't hiss and bare its fangs at you. What do you do?
You call Animal Control. After evaluating its condition, Animal Control may turn the animal over to one of the two remarkable, non-identical wildlife twins of Santa Fe County; The Wildlife Center in Española or Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood.
The founding director of the Wildlife Center, Dr. Kathleen Ramsay, leads the rehabilitation effort for the hundreds of injured animals that are brought to the Center from across the state. Many of the animals are so severely injured that they die almost immediately, but hundreds survive, and after care and rehabilitation are released in locations where it is unlikely they will come into contact with humans again. The Wildlife Center is authorized by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture to rehabilitate and release native wild animals, including endangered and threatened species such as our national bird, the Bald Eagle. Approximately half of the thousand animals that the Wildlife Center receives each year, ranging from bears and mountain lions to bats, red-tailed hawks, humming birds, and horny toads, are eventually re-released into the wild.
Sometimes an animal is so badly injured or habituated to humans that it will not survive in the wild. Some of these animals are used by The Wildlife Center and its corps of volunteers to educate the public about animals and their place in the ecosystem. As part of its Educational Outreach Program, The Wildlife Center presents programs to schools, organizations and groups who are interested in New Mexico wildlife and its ecosystems. The presentation usually includes nonreleasable raptors, reptiles, or mammals, a talk about that animal and its place in our environment.
The non-profit Wildlife Center Inc., now 13 years old, provides all its services free of charge and never turns away an animal in need. Almost its entire budget of $220,000 is derived from donations. It receives absolutely no federal or state tax revenue for its operations.
The Wildlife Center attempts to minimize the animal's exposure to people to facilitate its return to the wild, so the Center does not encourage casual visitors.
Wildlife West Nature Park near Edgewood is characterized by Roger Alink, the founder of the 122-acre environmental education center, as "a B&B for rescued and nonreleasable animals" and "an enhanced zoo and wildlife refuge.
The Nature Park welcomes the public and is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
Wildlife West is a licensed zoological park -- possibly the only zoo anywhere run entirely by volunteers -- a wildlife game refuge with an augmented wetland supplied by a unique water-harvesting project, and an enhanced nature area where over 2,000 trees and shrubs have been planted in the last few years, and wildflowers abound. All contained animals at the Nature Park are nonreleasable, and comprise a wide variety of disabled, blind or people-habituated native wildlife that could not survive in the wild. The residents include a cougar and several coyotes, deer, elk, black-tailed prairie dogs (candidates for endangered-species), raccoons, owls, squirrels, turtles and more. Sometimes Wildlife West even takes nonreleasables from The Wildlife Center. But because of money and habitat restrictions, Wildlife West has had to turn down more animals than they take in.
"Habitat Hikes", a tradition since 1993, give the youth from the local public schools, home school programs and local community centers the chance to develop an appreciation and an awareness for nature around them. And in the "Outdoor Classroom" members and area residents learn to reclaim land, stop soil erosion, enhance natural habitat, develop wetlands, plant moist-soil gardens, plan permaculture environments, and design and build nature trails.
One of the most intriguing features of Wildlife West is the widespread use of recycled materials -- such as old tires -- in its buildings and habitat constructions. Presently, over 60% of the materials utilized for projects are recycled.
Every Friday and Saturday evening at 7 pm between July 2 and September 4, Wildlife West hosts a "Chuckwagon Supper" where you may enjoy a BBQ dinner and western music show along with an educational wildlife show. Reservations are required.
Wildlife West is licensed by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture, and is an educational project of the New Mexico Wildlife Association, a not-for-profit corporation since 1992. Wildlife West currently operates on donations, memberships, and in-kind services. As of this year more than 120 volunteers have donated almost 200,000 community service hours!
For further information contact:The Wildlife Center -- Scott Phillips, Director
PO Box 246
Española, NM 87532
Wildlife West Nature Park -- Michelle Fishburn, Director
PO Box 1359
Edgewood, NM 87015
William Baxter is a computer nerd, archaeology enthusiast, and open lands activist who never imagined he'd be sharing space with so many species, both domesticated and wild.
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