A politician, nun and TV star walk into a raccoon enclosure….
It sounds like the beginning to a joke, but it was actually the way we began our big party last weekend. We took advantage of rare timing and invited the public to tour our newly-completed wildlife rehabilitation facilities at our Center for Compassion in Burlingame. We have brand spankin’ new roof-top enclosures but very few wild animals in our care (who were all moved to other, non-public areas during our event). Great timing aside, we needed another draw, so we added people to a few of those empty cages and they
Jamis MacNiven, owner of Buck’s Restaurant and the unofficial mayor of Silicon Valley, was caged next to Ken White, our President. Around the corner on our roof-top sanctuary, Foster City Vice-Mayor Pam Frisella stood next to former Belmont Mayor and current Central Elementary School teacher George Metropulos. Pam found her placement fitting, since many of our injured and orphaned ducks come from her fine burgh. And George -- Mr. Metro to his students -- had a steady flow of kids and parents dropping in to see their teacher confined.
A few feet away, we housed Doug McConnell in our large raptor aviary, where he held court for a few hours chatting with fans who fondly remembered his Bay Area Backroads work and his 1980s Mac and Mutley show on KPIX.
We set-up San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier in our mammal enclosures; one of my favorite moments from the day was seeing her with a friend – a Catholic nun – in a space designed for raccoons. I’m pretty sure we’ll never see that again.
And the fun wasn’t confined to the outdoor spaces. Inside, we set up projects for kids. In one station, they picked apart owl pellets to see what the owls had eaten, but not digested. If you’re thinking ewwww, it’s actually a fun, relatively clean project. Next to that table, kids learned how oil spills can harm birds’ feathers.
In the end, a fantastic weekend. We drew 600 plus visitors, which far surpassed our wildest expectations. I hope readers can get an idea from the photos. The last few show two actual animal patients who were obviously not on display during this open house.
The first, a Merlin Falcon, arrived with a significant wing injury; we were hopeful that our efforts to treat this almost definite life-ending injury would work, but in the end, the bird couldn’t be saved. We had a happy ending with a screech owl, which we believe was hit by a car. After receiving supportive care which included sub-cutaneous fluids and antibiotics, he was released after demonstrating he could fly and hunt with just one sighted eye.
If we continue at this pace, saving 50 percent of the 3,000 to 4,000 sick, injured and orphaned wild animals who arrive needing care, we’ll be the most successful wildlife rehab center on the planet.