“We should remember in our dealings with animals that they are a sacred trust to us… [They] cannot speak for themselves.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
It’s no secret that Central Oregon is growing – fast. The population of Deschutes County is 190,000 and expected to reach 250,000 in the next five years, which will inevitably strain the natural environment and its inhabitants. Animal intakes and calls to wildlife hotlines have increased substantially in the past decade, and 70% of injured or orphaned native species reported are a result of human conflict. These numbers are expected to increase as the region grows.
This summer, Central Oregon’s injured and orphaned native wildlife will have a new place to be treated. After 3 years of planning, zoning, and construction, the Think Wild Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center will open its doors to treat and rehabilitate native wildlife so they can be successfully released back into the wild. Completed with the help of community support and the work of Family Heritage Builders, the hospital is fully-equipped and expected to house over 100 patients in its first year.
“Every year, Think Wild receives thousands of calls to its Wildlife Hotline. We do our best to coordinate animal care with the skilled, local wildlife rehabilitation community – but these specialists are absolutely strapped for capacity,” said Sally Compton, Think Wild Executive Director. “The need for a public wildlife hospital in Central Oregon is long overdue.”
In order to provide more long-term, specialized care and treat a range of native species in the future, including mammals, raptors, songbirds and waterfowl, Think Wild has to build a wide variety of Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conditioning Enclosures. These can span from a small, 15 ft. concrete-based enclosure for mammals to a 100 ft. long flight cage for hawks, eagles and owls. Think Wild is offering naming opportunities beginning at $2,500 for enclosures and hospital rooms to raise funds to meet a challenge matching grant of $96,400 from HEDCO Foundation.
Community members can call the Think Wild Wildlife Hotline (541-241-8680) if an injured or orphaned animal is found. Once an individual has called the hotline, qualified staff determine if treatment is necessary and take steps to arrange care for the animal. Think Wild will accept patients by appointment through its Wildlife Hotline as capacity allows or direct the caller to the appropriate local wildlife rehabilitator based on species. Although the hospital will not be open for public access to minimize stress and promote a healing environment for patients, there are volunteer positions available in Think Wild Education, Outreach, Animal Care and Wildlife Hotline and Transport.
The Wildlife Hotline and Hospital are operated by a team of experienced volunteers and local volunteer veterinarians, and overseen by Think Wild’s Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Pauline Baker. Pauline moved to Bend after many years of leading with wildlife rehabilitation at Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria, Oregon. In addition to animal care, Pauline will also manage partnership, research and professional development opportunities at the hospital, such as workshops for veterinary clinics, internships for Central Oregon Community College Veterinary Technician Program students and research collaborations with Oregon State University – Cascades.
To inspire the community to protect wildlife, Think Wild works with local schools and organizations to connect students to wildlife and the environment via experiential classroom and outdoor programs as a part of their Think Wild Education program. Students participate in a wide range of activities including creating enrichment items for animals under Think Wild’s care, learning about effective science communications by developing wildlife advocacy videos, and gardening for native pollinators. With the addition of the hospital, Think Wild Education will better reflect the real-time, local data collected around Central Oregon to educate on human-wildlife urban conflicts, local conservation issues, and wildlife-friendly behavior changes.
Local conservation services, such as native habitat restoration and wildlife-friendly infrastructure consultations, are also a key focus for Think Wild to promote sustainable wildlife success in the region. One of Think Wild’s key conservation programs, Beaver Works Oregon, works with landowners, biologists and partner organizations to promote beaver success on the landscape and beaver co-existence strategies. The Think Wild wildlife hospital itself sits on a 3.9 acre property in Bend, which will be restored to its native vegetative state in a long-term property restoration plan, including a 3,000 sq. ft. native pollinator garden and 5-year native plant research project already in progress.
“We are so excited for the Think Wild hospital to fill the regional need for wildlife rehabilitation and to provide a significant and enduring impact in Central Oregon,” said Compton. “The abundance, diversity and uniqueness of wild places and animals here in Central Oregon are what makes our home so special. I think our community recognizes that, and I look forward to what we can all accomplish together.”
If you are interested in donating or learning more, please visit www.thinkwildco.org. East Bend Animal Hospital has pledged to match donations to Think Wild for up to $5,000 in order to raise funds to open for animal intake. Your donation of any amount helps make wildlife education, conservation, and rescue & rehabilitation in Central Oregon possible.