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Theresa Bielawski spends most of her work week handling auto loans for Maine-based TD Bank from her Fair Oaks home office. The rest of the time, she rehabs injured birds, squirrels, opossums and even coyotes.

Bielawski, 48, is president of the all-volunteer Wildlife Care Association, a group of bird and animal lovers who nurse all sorts of wounded critters back to life (when they can), in a large, donated facility at the former McClellan Air Force Base — and in their homes and backyards. Bielawski has been the nonprofit’s president for eight years and has been volunteering with it for “going on something like 15 years, I think.”

Seventy percent of the creatures the group helps to heal are birds, “though we get the occasional fox and beaver,” she says. Because she’s in the banking industry (and has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Montana), she probably feels compelled to issue a slight disclaimer: “I’m not sure that 70 percent figure is absolutely accurate. But it’s close.”

We’re sitting outside a coffee shop on Watt Avenue near Fair Oaks Boulevard on a mild day that flirts with the idea of raining — you can actually smell it coming, even though the sun’s out. Bielawski, who has clear blue eyes and a direct manner, says she grew up with her three brothers and two sisters in “a little home in the woods” on 20 acres in Montana. “I’ve loved animals ever since I was a kid. I got my first guinea pig at the age of five. Our folks didn’t have much money but by letting us keep pets, we didn’t want a lot of other stuff.”

The Wildlife Care Association “needs volunteers and needs money,” Bielawski says. “We used to have 11 board members. Now we have six. And we’re definitely a working board.” When I mention that her association sold out its annual fundraiser, “Wings & Wine” at High Hand Nursery last Saturday, weeks in advance, she says, “All we get to keep from it is the money we raise from selling raffle tickets. High Hand’s great — it pays for everything and serves really good food and wine — and it also gives us a $1,000 donation.”

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Delicate pink fingers reach over the top of her latex gloves as Lisa Marra holds a baby opossum while cleaning cages and feeding songbirds at the Sacramento Wildlife Care Association. She checks in on a litter of Western gray squirrels with unopened eyes, rescued when their nest was blown from a tree on a recent windy day. In a child’s playpen covered with screen netting, Cedar Waxwings feast on Pyracantha berries while recovering from injuries.

Having worked in veterinary medicine for the past 20 years, Marra found herself between jobs while living temporarily in Sacramento to care for her elderly grandfather. With a strong passion for wildlife conservation, she was inspired to volunteer for the rescue program.

Almost forced to close its doors last year due to financial difficulties, the nonprofit relies heavily on volunteers as its main workforce.

Baby birds are fed on frequent schedules from sunup to sundown and the entire second floor of the McClellan Park building is turned into a songbird nursery during their busy season from April to September.

“To see them come in here in their condition and get the care they need to be released back into the wild is the best feeling,” said Marra. “It makes you happy to know you’ve had some hand in that.”

To sign up to become a volunteer, email: wcavolunteers@yahoo.com.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article13103315.html#storylink=cpy

Some of California’s most amazing critters need you help!

California’s second largest wildlife rehabilitation center needs the public’s help to keep its doors open.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Sacramento’s Wildlife Care Association, which had run out of money and faced the possibility of shutting down in August, has been saved for now by donations from the community and wildlife advocates.

“We are so grateful that the community has really stepped up and helped us out,” association President Theresa Bielawski said Tuesday. “We will be able to stay open throughout the winter.”

The association, which takes in as many as 6,000 orphaned or injured animals and birds annually from throughout the region, had run out of funds because of a dropoff in donations and was threatened with closure next month, a plight that left the group wondering whether 1,000 wild birds it houses at its McClellan Park facility might have to be euthanized.

A July 16 story in The Bee that described the group’s troubles sparked an outpouring of donations and offers of help, with more than $50,000 in contributions coming in so far. Although Bielawski said the association will need more funding in the long term, the donations so far will allow it to maintain normal operations.

Bielawski said donations poured in from individuals, as well as a $10,000 contribution from the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and another $10,000 from Sacramento County that she had previously sought during budget hearings.

In addition, the Sacramento Zoo raised $885 for the group last Thursday at an event in which $1 of each ticket to the event was donated to the wildlife group. Those donations totaled $579. Another $306 came from individuals attending who decided to give more money to the group.

The association fell into financial difficulty during the recession, when many donors cut back on giving and some volunteers found it too difficult to devote time to the group, Bielawski said.

She added that the recent donations will help the group stay afloat but that it still needs more funding and, in addition to seeking donors, is reaching out to cities and the county for funding.

“Our big plan is to go to all the cities and the counties” when budget hearings are next held, she said.

The wildlife group keeps close tabs on what areas it receives animals and birds from, and hopes to use that information to bolster giving, she said.

For instance, in the last four years, association records show 500 animals have been brought in from the Rancho Cordova area. The group already has reached out to the city and indicated it will ask for funding help in the future.

Many people don’t understand the costs associated with some of the work, Bielawski said, noting that about six weeks ago a woman brought two baby barn owls in from the Mather area that had fallen out of a nest.

“They can eat between five and 10 mice a night at $1 apiece,” she said. “We’ll have them anywhere between 60 and 90 days, depending on how quickly they can fly, so it might cost us $2,000 to raise those two barn owls.

“That’s just a prime example of people not knowing how much it costs.”

The nonprofit group accepts donations through its website, www.wildlifecareassociation.com, or mailed checks sent to the Wildlife Care Association, P.O. Box 680, North Highlands, CA 95660.

The group also is planning a “Nuts and Berries” fundraiser Dec. 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Lion’s Gate Hotel at McClellan Park, with tickets going for $10 apiece. The event features a large silent auction of various items, as well as “ambassador animals” that will be present.

SACRAMENTO — California’s second largest wildlife rehabilitation center needs the public’s help to keep its doors open.

The Wildlife Care Association located at the McClellan Business Park has been saving injured animals- mostly birds- for 30 years. However, with the downturn of the economy and lack of funds, they are in jeopardy of closing down.

Unless they get the funds or find new homes for their 500 to 700 temporary wildlife animals that are at the facility now, they will all be euthanized.

“It is definitely something that is really hard to think about,” Assistant Triage Manager, Autumn Turner said. “This is our job. This is what we do. to try and help save them, and to turn around and say oh we cant actually save you and now we have to put you down is not really acceptable.”

They are currently running only on a $30,000 budget, out of their necessary $100,000 annual budget. In recent years, they have cut down the number of paid staff, and rely mostly on volunteers and unpaid interns. Many interns from around the world come to the facility to get hands-on experience with the more than 6,000 animals the facility takes in annually. Many are veterinary and zoology students.

21 year old Dina Catallo is studying at Colorado State University to become a zoologist. This is her second year as an intern. The lack of funding also affected her.

“I was actually scheduled to be a staffer,” Catallo said. “But we don’t have the funding… But that doesn’t matter because if they need me here, I’m here.”

Read more: http://fox40.com/2014/07/21/wildlife-rehab-center-seeks-public-help-and-funding/#ixzz394ncnj7M

SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) – They’re a non-profit animal sanctuary with the mission of rehabilitating and releasing local wildlife. But now the Wildlife Care Association may be forced to euthanize the same animals they’ve rescued.

The group is located in Sacramento County and takes care of hundreds of birds. Some of the birds are sick and some are injured, but if the association runs out of funding, euthanasia is an option for the animals.

“Euthanasia is the absolute last course of action that any center would take,” said Brianna Abeyta, who runs the Wildlife Care Association at McClellan Park.
The association has been around about 30 years.

“I’m here four days a week,” said Rodney Cornelius, a volunteer.

For the past six years, Abeyta and a handful of volunteers have helped rescue, re-habilitate, and release thousands of local wildlife. It’s their passion.
“I’ve always wanted to do rehabilitation since I was really young because I was always finding animals and raising them myself and letting them go,” said Krystal Tysdale, a college intern.
“There’s a lot of stuff to do,” said Cornelius.

But it takes about $100,000 a year to keep the facility running.

“And this season we had only about $30,000 to work with,” said Abeyta.

So why the difference? Abeyta says sponsorship dollars dropped off, operating costs skyrocketed and there are not enough sanctuaries in Northern California to take in all these animals.
The lack of cash is now putting these already endangered birds in danger of being killed.

“That would be beyond devastating. It would probably hurt a lot of us emotionally and I think it would be hard to have to deal with something like that,” said Abeyta.
The organization only has a few weeks to decide what’s going to happen next. Organizers hope to raise enough funds to keep it open for next year.

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