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Wildlife Ventures and Firsts: A Reflective Journey Through DCHS's Wildlife Center

This year in the Wildlife Center has been…well, WILD! 2023 was a year of firsts. This was the first time we have ever helped rehab a baby bobkitten. We know it was a wild animal, but it was pretty much the cutest thing we have ever seen. Now that it is old enough, she is back running through the forests of Wisconsin. Also this year, we had picked a release site for a rehabbed Barred Owl that happened to be right next door to where one of our amazing Directors’ Council members lived. They were in attendance and starting laughing, sharing with the rest of us that the owl had flown to and landed in a large tree on their property. It really is a small world.

2023 was also the first time that we had two different species of unreleasable of birds that became friends during their rehabilitation. We housed a swan with a wing injury that never fully healed with a pelican who could no longer acquire food for himself in the wild. As cute as the pair were (we even made a t shirt https://www.giveshelter.org/events/bonfire ) we do not have permanent residents at our Wildlife Center, and they would have to find new homes. Thankfully our friends in animal welfare had our back, leading us to place the Franklin the swan in the Ochsner Park Zoo. But what to do with Kevin the Pelican? How about Utah? But, that means we had to figure out how to fly a pelican to Utah. Kevin is now at Zootah in Utah and has a new friend in Nigel, another unreleaseable pelican already at the zoo. Nigel has been alone for over a decade and is alone no more due to the work done in our Wildlife Center.

Just this last month we have had two firsts with foxes. The Wildlife team return our first gray fox to the wild just outside of LaCrosse where he was found. And, in a bit more unusual story, this year was the first time we were given a domesticated fox. This fox cannot be released into the wild, and yet we don’t want to adopt him out as a pet. So, what do you do? You transfer the fox to the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

And we are excited for all of the firsts we know we will see in 2024, and you will have helped make each of them possible. We are hoping to have our new 100 foot flight pen finished and rehabbing large birds soon. And even more exciting, we are going to have more help in the Wildlife Center than ever. Due to the generosity of our donors (lead by members of the Directors’ Council) we will be able to fund not one but two Werndli Wildlife Apprentices next year. I am happy to announce that we have selected our two knew apprentices, Ashton and Emelia! With more help, we can help more animals. Thank you for helping make this happen.