Our Main Shelter (including the Adoption Center and Front Office) will be closed Saturday, 9/30, for Bark & Wine! The Wildlife Center and Thrift Store will be open their regular hours.

Jun 1, 2021

Where The Wild Things Are


Entering its 20th year, DCHS Wildlife Center continues its mission to rehabilitate native birds, reptiles and other creatures big and small.

In the fall of 2002, Dane County Humane Society Kennel Manager Dave Madden and Animal Services Officer Pat Comfert approached Executive Director Pam McCloud Smith with the idea to house and rehabilitate injured wild animals.

Back then, wildlife in need of medical care were taken to the Emergency Clinic for Animals, now Madison Veterinary Specialists. However, that facility had limited space, and DCHS was not yet allowed to house wildlife in its building.

DCHS already had a barn, built in 1999, to lodge horses, livestock and feral cats. Pam designated one stall of the barn for wildlife rehabilitation, and Dave and Pat took responsibility for taking care of and treating patients. Thus began the Wildlife Center at DCHS and its gradual expansion into what it has become today.

By 2012, 10 years after the Wildlife Center opened, the facility had experienced a 65-percent increase in wildlife intake. Patients went from being housed in a single stall to expanding into the entire barn space. With over 1,500 wildlife admitted each year, the barn was no longer large enough to treat the large volume of animals coming in.

Soon, plans were underway to construct a separate facility for the wildlife center. A new horse and livestock barn opened in 2016, and the old barn was remodeled to treat and house wildlife. The remodel included a songbird room, new concrete floors, plumbing for outdoor sinks and indoor restrooms, a large kitchen and food prep area, and a new furnace and air conditioner system to improve temperature control.

The Wildlife Center at DCHS is now the third largest facility of its kind in the state of Wisconsin. More than 3,800 wild patients are admitted annually, representing more than 100 species of native birds, reptiles and amphibians. In almost 20 years, nearly 30,000 creatures have been treated.

The staff are fully licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to treat the in-coming patients.

The Wildlife Center sees a number of turtles that need to recover from injuries caused by collisions with vehicles and other mishaps. More than 3,800 creatures representing 100 species of native birds, reptiles and amphibians are treated annually.

These talented people provide top-notch medical care to wildlife, and they are qualified to perform a variety of diagnostic and surgical services. They are designated wildlife rehabilitation sponsors who help train the next generation of professionals, including interns, apprentices, and University of Wisconsin-Madison veterinary students.

In addition, The Wildlife Center has up to 200 volunteers during the peak season, and they are truly the backbone of the operation. Volunteers not only care for patients, but also answer questions from the public, assist with fundraising and even raise worms and other food used to feed the wildlife. Some are even dedicated to helping transport and rescue injured wildlife, and they bring them back to the Wildlife Center for examinations.

There is no fee to bring an animal to the Wildlife Center, which receives no state or federal funding. Its money comes solely from fundraising. With the average cost to care for each animal at about $100, donations are critical to continuing to provide these animals with care.

The Wildlife Center, which will mark its 20-year anniversary in 2022, remains a significant part of DCHS, thanks to its staff, volunteers and generous donors. They are all passionate about the creatures they help bring back to good health so they may be returned to their natural habitats.

Learn more about the Wildlife Center here.

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Supporting Our Community Together

Your incredible support provides that extra help needed to keep families together.

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Sep 5th, 2023

Clear The Shelters Helps Pets Find New Homes

DCHS helps more pets find loving homes in August, besting other recent months by a wide margin, thanks to the Clear The Shelters adoption event.

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Aug 28th, 2023

An Ode to Crows

Enjoy an ode to crows, learn about theses interesting birds, and read a rehabilitation story from DCHS's Wildlife Program Manager.

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Aug 1st, 2023

DCHS Hosts Clear The Shelters 2023

DCHS holds month-long adoption promotion to help more pets find loving homes during Clear The Shelters 2023.

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Jul 31st, 2023

New Beginnings for Senior Dogs

Thanks to a generous grant award from The Grey Muzzle Organization, DCHS could provide necessary dental care to senior dog Barbie.

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Jul 17th, 2023

It's Raining Woodpeckers!

Over 1,000 animals have already been admitted to DCHS’s Wildlife Center for rehabilitation in the first half of 2023. What species of songbird are we seeing the most? Woodpeckers!

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