WILDLIFE REHABILITATION PROGRAM
In its efforts to rehabilitate and return native wildlife to the wild, W.E.R.C. has worked with sick, injured, and orphaned animals such as bobcats, badgers, owls, hawks, reptiles, and eagles. The majority of patients are a result of human intervention, e.g., animals hit by cars, gunshot wounds, poisonings, etc. In addition to animals that arrive at the center due to human intervention, there are also orphaned animals separated from their parents before learning critical skills necessary to feed and defend themselves in the wild.
The most extraordinary effort to rehabilitate an animal in W.E.R.C.'s history came in the winter of 1995. A 10-week old bobcat kitten was brought to the Center by people who assumed it had been abandoned. The female bobcat we named Bobbie was separated from her mother and siblings too long to return her, and was too young to survive on her own. After an unsuccessful search for another young bobcat at California rehabilitation centers, W.E.R.C. decided to try an unprecedented approach to wildlife rehabilitation. A team of staff and volunteers at the Center transformed themselves into a "foster" mother bobcat to ensure Bobbie kept her natural instincts and did not become tame.
The team members fed, examined, and played with Bobbie in a full-body fur costume and mask smeared with bobcat urine, and bay, sage, and rosemary leaves to hide the human scent. They worked in complete silence and imitated the actions of a mother bobcat. Bobbie learned to hunt and pounce for food, and as importantly, to run and hide from humans. With an eartag so she could be recognized in future sightings, the team members released Bobbie in March 1995 at Coyote Lake Park, Gilroy, California. She was spotted twice by park rangers. The first time was three months after her release, and the next sighting was a year and a half later.
W.E.R.C. is the first rehabilitation center to attempt to rehabilitate a singular bobcat kitten (Felis Rufus) raised alone in captivity without human contact. The story of this innovative approach received national and international media coverage. W.E.R.C. continues to use this method it pioneered to successfully raise other orphaned bobcats. W.E.R.C.'s next goal with this project is to secure funding to replace the 10' x 15' enclosure with one three times that size.
While Bobbie's story was one of human interference, many animals are brought to W.E.R.C. because they have been injured by moving cars, pets, or even humans. As humans and their pets populate wildlife's native habitat, we intrude on nature. As people and wildlife try to co-exist, wildlife suffers. We at W.E.R.C. seek not to interfere in the laws of nature or in the tide of human expansion , but simply to lend a helping hand to assist nature in evening up the survival odds of displaced native wildlife.
With people come the inevitable influx of a non-native population of pets. Until every pet owner takes responsibility for their outdoor pets, i.e., make cats wear a collar with warning bells and restrict dogs to their own backyard, incredible numbers of wildlife will be subjected to terror, injury, and mutilation by domesticated animals acting upon their natural instincts. When these unfortunately frequent events occur, W.E.R.C. provides care to cat-caught birds, rabbits, and other creatures, or helps save opossums, badgers, and squirrels which have been mangled by dogs. Without assistance, these animals are doomed to death - a death due not to Mother Nature but to the introduction of people and pets into their habitat.
Each species of animal has different dietary requirements which must be met in order in ensure survival. Conversely, the wrong kind of food will often kill an animal, even though it is safely eaten by humans. The process of rehabilitation and eventual release is far more complicated than diet alone. It may also include:
Teaching young birds to eat on their own.
Providing safe areas in which fledgling birds learn to fly - a process which may require several days during which young birds are grounded and unable to protect themselves.
Providing companionship with the animals' own kind to imprint upon and learn the behavior required in the wild to survive and be accepted by members of the same species.
Nearly all wild birds and mammals are protected under the law. Therefore, it is illegal for them to be taken from the wild and kept as pets or patients without federal and state permits. W.E.R.C. is the only facility in South Santa Clara County licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide rehabilitative services.
W.E.R.C. is a member in good standing of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC), and the California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR). These organizations address implementation of standards for facilities, care, and caging for wildlife rehabilitation. In July 1993, W.E.R.C. passed the IWRC Pilot Accreditation Program for Basic Standards of Care in Wildlife Rehabilitation. We were issued a glowing report by the IWRC Standards and Accreditation Chair. Copies of this report are available upon request from W.E.R.C. or the IWRC. W.E.R.C. is also a member of both the Morgan Hill and Gilroy Chambers of Commerce.
W.E.R.C.'s Executive Director is Sue Howell, a long-time South County resident, nature enthusiast, and recipient of Morgan Hill's Golden Mushroom Award for outstanding community service. Sue is an ambassador with the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, an active participant and presenter in continuing education seminars on wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife education, and is on NWRA's Board of Directors.
The Executive Director oversees the care, feeding, and treatment of W.E.R.C.'s patients through state-of-the-art wildlife rehabilitation techniques. Professional veterinary services are secured for acute emergencies. Chronic, long-term rehabilitative care is provided at the Center, with veterinarian visits provided on an as-needed basis.
W.E.R.C.'s professional staff is critical to the success of our rehabilitation program. But with the admission of hundreds of animals every year, our staff performs only a fraction of the services required to maintain the Center. Their work is supplemented by an army of dedicated volunteers enthusiastically providing care, maintenance of facilities, representing the Center in community events, exercising on-site education animals, attending continued education seminars on wildlife rehabilitation, and a myriad of other functions which comprise the services offered by W.E.R.C