Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Educates the Community about Predator Prevention

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Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Educates the Community about Predator Prevention

Local Wildlife Center Rescues and Rehabilitates More Than 1,000 Animals Per Year

Article and photos by Rachel LaFranchi

Published July 1, 2016

SCWR is currently rehabilitating an orphaned mountain lion cub. Due to being orphaned at a young age and spending most of it’s initial life around humans, the cub will not be released. Instead the cub will be socialized so it can be part of the center’s educational exhibit.

The Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR) was established in 1981 by a group of women concerned about the welfare of wildlife in Sonoma County. They hired their first staff member, Executive Director Doris Duncan, in 2000 and have continued to grow since.

They moved to their current property on Mecham Road 10 years ago where they built their second wildlife center. The center is open to the public for guided tours on Saturdays and private tours can be scheduled in advance for other days of the week. Since 2000, SCWR has seen more than 20,000 visitors.

The center has permanent exhibits of non-releasable wildlife including foxes, coyotes, opossums, raccoons and squirrels which are on display for visitors to see. Each animal came to the rescue with its own story making it unable to release into its native habitat.
Additionally, the center has another section of animals which are being rehabilitated to be released into the wild. Each year, the center rescues and rehabilitates more than 1,000 animals. In 2015, the center took in more than 1,200 animals, and by mid-year 2016 the center has already seen more than 500 animals.

Assistant Animal Care Director Katie Woolery (left) and Linnaea Furlong treat an injured baby fox brought into the center.

Animals brought in for rehabilitation and release are kept separate from the non-releasable wildlife. These sick, injured and orphaned wildlife have minimal interactions with people so they can successfully integrate back into their natural environment.
More recently, SCWR has been working on their Predator Prevention and Education Barnyard Program (PEEP). The barnyard area focuses on educating members of the community about protecting livestock and pets from natural predation.

PEEP emphasizes protecting domestic animals in a manner that does not harm wildlife. Linnaea Furlong, SCWR’s education outreach director, said killing or removing wild animals causes a “wildlife vacancy or a hole in the ecosystem.” This vacancy leaves behind the food and shelter that were previously available to wildlife and more animals will move in to fill the hole.

“It’s a never ending fight,” said Furlong. “But you don’t have to keep fighting with the wildlife.”

Goats and chickens are part of SCWR’s predator prevention barnyard. The barnyard demonstrates how livestock can be allowed to roam using wildlife friendly techniques to keep predators out.

PEEP uses various exclusion techniques to demonstrate ways to keep out predators. One of these involves fencing with sharp wire on top to discourage predators from climbing in. Another used is a coyote roller – a bar at the top of the fence which spins and as the animals put their paws on the bar to climb, over they roll off.

SCWR also recommends simpler techniques such as barns and corralling animals at night. For chickens, Furlong describes the Chicken Guard which automatically shuts the door of the chicken coop at sunset and opens it at sunrise.

While the SCWR staff realizes not all these methods are practical for large scale agricultural operations, they have demonstrated their ability to protect livestock in a cost-effective manner. Many of their projects are built with recycled materials purchased cheaply off craigslist, materials others were looking to discard.

The PEEP barnyard is currently home to two goats, two cats and an assortment of chickens. The goats and chickens run loose in the barnyard which is surrounded by open dairy land habitable to predators. The livestock are also separated by a fence from two wolf-dog hybrids SCWR rescued to demonstrate that a properly constructed pen can save livestock from natural predators. The center’s two orange tabbies live in a “catio” structure which demonstrates how cats can be outdoor pets without worrying about predation.

“Predator prevention doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Furlong. “It’s about outsmarting the animals. How can they get in and how can you keep them out?”

The center is also home to a wildlife education garden where the staff demonstrates how the public can protect crops from wildlife. The garden shows how raised garden beds and wire mesh can keep out unwanted animals such as gophers. Additionally, SCWR installs and maintains owl boxes throughout the county as another form of predator prevention.

“We want to demonstrate to the community that we are on their side,” said Executive Director Doris Duncan. “We are an excellent resource for protecting livestock and all of our techniques are wildlife friendly.”

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is open to the public for tours on Saturdays and private tours can be scheduled in advance. For more information on their programs and information about visiting see
www.scwildliferescue.org.

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