WE’re IN THE Media

The Sacramento Zoo and WCA are partnering together at the Sacramento Zoo’s Twilight Thursdays. $1 of you admission will help support the WCA.

The Sac Zoo says,

“We’re excited to announce that $1 from every paid admission during this week’s Twilight Thursday will be donated to the Wildlife Care Association!…The Zoo is committed to helping them meet their urgent funding needs!”

Please join us at the Sac Zoo this Thur (7/24) to help support WCA!

Visit Sacramento Zoo Website for more info!

News 10 abc

SACRAMENTO – Wildlife Care Association (WCA) is a non-profit association in Sacramento that cares for sick, orphaned and injured animals. Sadly, after more than three decades, the facility will be forced to close its doors in August without badly needed funding, and thousands of animals will be turned away, with nowhere to go.

“It’s difficult… these animals are birds are amazing they deserve to be cared for, they deserve an excellent quality of life,” Wildlife Care Association’s Facility Manager Brianna Abeyta said through tears. “Come August 31 we will close the doors. We cannot take animals anymore because we will not have the funds to care for them,”

The only facility of its kind in Northern California, WCA cares for upwards of 6,000 animals every year.

Many animals are brought in by concerned citizens or agencies like Animal Control. Inside of these walls, the animals are nursed back to life in a thorough rehabilitation process before being released back into the wild.

That process requires hundreds of gallons of food each month, medicine to treat the injured animals and plenty of volunteers.

“It takes about $100,000 to operate every year, and we only had about $30,000 this year to operate,” Abeyta explained.

The organization relies solely on public donations and is running out of funds to keep the lights on. Consequently, these animals that deserve a second chance at life will face a slim chance of survival.

“There will be no place for people to take the animals that they find, they’ll most likely go to the shelters and they won’t get care, they will just be euthanized,” Abeyta said.

These birds play a critical role not only in nature, but also to our health. Many birds that have been dropped off at this facility have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, giving vector control a clear indication where the disease has surfaced.

Wildlife Care Association is also partly responsible for bringing back the yellow-billed Magpie, an endemic species nearly wiped-out from West Nile.

“When a bird like that is affected so horribly by a disease, it’s really important the work that we do to rehabilitate those guys and get them back in the wild,” said Abeyta.

Wildlife Care Association is permitted by the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but receives no state or federal funding.

Now, the group who has helped keep these birds in flight is depending on the public’s help to keep them soaring.

“It’s a very difficult issue to face, because this place is so important to all these animals.”

By Sam Stanton

The wildlife sat on a metal “intake rack” in cardboard boxes of all sorts, waiting for triage specialists to decide if they were injured, dehydrated or simply had fallen out of a nest and needed rescue.

A pair of possums and 17 birds were the newest animals to be brought to the front door of the former radar building at McClellan Park, where the Sacramento Wildlife Care Association already houses roughly 1,000 birds. It was just noon on Monday by the time all the new arrivals had shown up.

For eight years, the association has operated out of the golf-ball shaped structure at the former Air Force base, serving as the region’s only center licensed to accept wild animals and help them recover until they can be returned to the wild.

But by August, if the group’s worst fears come to pass, the structure may have to shut down and force the staff to turn the birds over to be euthanized.

“We’ve been hurting financially for a long time,” association President Theresa Bielawski said this week as she pondered how the group can stave off a closure that would, for the first time, imperil the animals they have spent years trying to save.

A combination of factors has hit the group: The years-long recession has cut into donations that are its lifeblood; the drought has increased the number of animals facing difficulty in the wild; and the group itself acknowledges it has not done a good job seeking grants, public funds or publicity.

Its 2012 tax return as a nonprofit lists a whopping $70 spent on advertising and promotion.

“Wildlife care has been on a bubble for years,” said Bielawski, who serves as president without pay and balances her duties with a day job working in the car loan business. “Probably what should have happened is we should have gone to cities and counties and said, ‘There’s more need for our services; we need money from you guys.’ ”

Nearly all of the 39-year-old group’s funding comes from donations or an annual fundraiser. In past years, the group has managed to just scrape by with a tiny paid staff and as many as 100 volunteers.

But the financial situation has become so serious the association says it may be forced to shut down in August rather than following its usual routine of going largely dormant in October, when there are few birds hatching or newborn mammals being brought in. Most of the mammals found by citizens – foxes, skunks, possums, squirrels and other creatures found injured or unable to care for themselves – are farmed out to volunteers who care for them at their homes.

But the bulk of the birds – robins, herons, mockingbirds and others – fill cages, laundry baskets and converted children’s playpens at the McClellan facility, where the air is filled with the smell of bird dung and the sounds of singing and chirping.

“We get them from all over,” said Autumn Turner, a 26-year-old Woodland resident who began with the group as an unpaid intern in 2012.

She is now the assistant triage manager overseeing the needs of each bird or mammal brought into the building. “We get them from vet clinics, we get them from the Sac zoo, we’ve gotten them from the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals),” Turner said.

So far this year, the number of birds at the facility has peaked at 1,500. It costs as much as $1,500 a month to purchase food for the birds, and the number being brought in has jumped from an average of five to 10 a day to 25 to 40 a day, largely because of the drought.

The drop-off in donations has hit hard.

“We just don’t have the funds to keep it operating,” Turner said, estimating that she works an average of 50 hours a week trying to manage the load. “I know that donations have been down for several years in a row, and I think that’s just impacting how things are going.”

The group’s Internal Revenue Service filings illustrate how the association’s budget of roughly $110,000 has been affected by the drop-off in donations. In 2008, it received nearly $121,000 in contributions. The next year, when the economic collapse was in full gear, it received $78,000. By 2010, donations had dropped to $74,000 and in 2011 to $65,000.

Conditions improved by 2012, when the association’s latest filing shows $103,000 in donations, but by then the group had found itself struggling as volunteers hit by the recession also began cutting the hours they spent helping.

Now, the association is hoping for a last-minute reprieve to allow it to continue operations through October, when most of the birds will be healed, trained to fend for themselves and released back into the wild. An August closure would leave the association scrambling to either find another entity to take birds or to face the possibility of euthanizing the ones that cannot be saved.

“We would do whatever we can to prevent that from happening,” Turner said. “We would much rather work with other entities and get the birds transferred to them.

“But, as far as shutting down, that’s definitely a very real possibility.”

Sacramento County spokeswoman Chris Andis said euthanizing the birds would be a remote possibility.

“Even though wildlife is outside our purview, we could certainly help spread the word that they need help through our media contacts, social media and partners,” she said. “Euthanasia is the very last step and would be far down the road; we want to avoid it whenever possible, no matter what kind of animal it is.”

The wildlife association, which accepts donations through its website, https://www.wildlifecareassociation.com, also is hoping to find volunteers skilled in writing grant applications, so it can provide a more permanent source of funding to pay for the cost of helping up to 6,000 orphaned or injured animals and birds annually.

“We have very limited fundraising that our board does, and that’s something that definitely needs to improve,” Turner said. “We don’t have a grant-writing team, and that’s what a lot of nonprofits have.”

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Wildlife rehabilitation is fast becoming a much needed program in the Sacramento region and the Wildlife Care Association is one of the largest organizations in the area taking in more than 7,000 animals per year. Many times the animals come to the Wildlife Care Association as a direct result of the destruction of natural meadows, woodlands and vernal pools for land development as well as other interferences including land and water pollution. All have taken their toll on the survivability of our local wildlife.

The Wildlife Care Association dedicates themselves to rectifying some of these problems by rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing the resultant orphaned, injured or ill local wildlife. They commit themselves to educate the public to respect and cherish the wildlife around them.

Theresa Bielawski and Debby DuVall from the Wildlife Care Association stop by with a couple of their owl friends to talk about an upcoming event that will help raise funds to this important cause.

news102+ Watch New Video

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Wildlife Care Association has helped many thousands of orphaned, sick and injured animals in the Sacramento region since it first started back in 1975. Now WCA needs help to continue the work.

“Donations have been down a lot this year,” said WCA Rehabilitation Manager Vann Masvidal. “It’s been a struggle to make ends meet.”

WCA is a volunteer operated non-profit, and with no funding from government or public entities, it depends on the generosity of volunteers and donations.

The annual Nuts & Berries fundraising event will take place Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Club Ballroom at the Lion’s Gate Hotel on McClellan Park.

“It’s rewarding work, it’s difficult work,” said Masvidal. “We’re giving animals a second chance at life that otherwise most likely are not going to survive.”

By Jennifer Smith, Jsmith@news10.net


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