Wildlife get second chance at refuge in river park

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VOLUNTEER FALCONER:
This feisty American Kestrel, blind in one eye, perches on the hand of center volunteer Daryl Chase during an open house at Shasta Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation.

VOLUNTEER FALCONER:
This feisty American Kestrel, blind in one eye, perches on the hand of center volunteer Daryl Chase during an open house at Shasta Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation.

A snarling Western gray fox, a red-tailed hawk, and a 20-year-old California king snake were among a group of animals that greeted attendees at the Shasta Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation’s recent open house.

The refuge held a fundraiser and a Run for the Wild footrace on April 5 along with the open house. The refuge is located in the Anderson River Park, 2800 Rupert Road.

All of animals on display are permanent residents of the refuge and are unable to survive if released back into the wild.

For example, the hawk has a broken wing. The king snake has cataracts. The kestrel is blind in one eye. And a barn owl was hit by a car and suffered many broken bones.

Since 1979, the refuge has taken in injured and orphaned wildlife in order to heal them, bring them back to good health, then release them into the wild. Last year, the refuge took in 1,228 birds and 233 mammals.

The refuge’s current list of patients includes baby songbirds, bald eagles, hawks, owls, ducks, chipmunks, rabbits, foxes and opossums.

Not all of the animals recuperating at the refuge were injured or hit by a car, although several of the animals on display had been. In the case of herons, if the hatchlings can’t keep up with the mother and other hatchlings, they get left behind.

“When mom walks to the water, and they’re just fluff balls at that point, they can get left behind,” refuge spokesperson Karlene Stoker said. “People find them on their lawns.”

Visitors toured the refuge’s facilities and met the display animals and their handlers. The tour included a walk-through of the refuge’s hunting rooms — basically a brick cubicle with a drain at the bottom — intended for animals who must hunt and kill prey even while recuperating from an injury.

Open-air pens are also kept at the refuge for herons and killdeer learning to hunt in a natural environment. Redding Rancheria donated $5,000 in 2004 for such an enclosure.

The privilege to tour the refuge comes only once a year as visitors are otherwise not allowed in the facility.

Rules for the facility are dictated by U.S. Fish andWildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game. The agencies prefer that animals to be rehabilitated and released into the wild remain as wild as possible, said Stoker.

That includes having as little contact with humans as possible, she explained.

For a photo gallery and video of the refuge’s recent open house, see www.andersonvalleypost.com.

To report injured or orphaned wildlife, contact the refuge at 365-WILD (365-9453) or online at http://www.shastawildliferescue.com/index.html.

© 2008 Anderson Valley Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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