Wildlife Care Network celebrates new hospital

On October 15, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (WCN) held a delightfully tropical-themed Wild Night Out on the grounds of Chase Palm Park’s Carousel House. The event raised $105,000 for the nonprofit’s invaluable work saving, rehabilitating and releasing wildlife. Last year, WCN served more than 4,700 animals in the wild.

The 200 guests enjoyed mingling in the idyllic, spacious oceanfront location on a warm Santa Barbara evening. Guests could choose from multiple bars and food stations at their leisure and enjoy a fun dance performance from Hulu Everyone. A speech by Executive Director Ariana Katovich and a video introduced guests to the work of WCN and the soon-to-be-opened hospital. Renowned photographer, author and producer Ian Shive shared how honored he is to be a board member and discussed the importance of WCN’s work. Fox NFL Sunday host Curt Menefee led the auction with both warmth and professionalism.

There is a lot of excitement about the new hospital due to open by the end of the year. Dedicated staff has endured for decades with very limited facilities. The current operation at North Fairview in Goleta consists of a 500 square foot building, sheds and trailers. Every year, 2000 songbirds are cared for in a single trailer, which also houses the operating room. The IC is in a shed.

The 5,400-square-foot state-of-the-art hospital with state-of-the-art medical equipment and surgery, radiology and ICU areas will ensure better patient outcomes and less stress for wildlife and staff.

The facility will enable WCN to rehabilitate oiled birds on site, rather than the current practice of stabilizing the birds and then sending them through a stressful trip to a specialized facility in LA for rehabilitation. The natural oil seeping off our coast makes oiled birds a must-see year-round, and every week volunteers make the trip to LA. Of course, there are also the dreaded oil spills that will inevitably come.

The $6 million campaign will also fund new enclosures and improved swimming pools and enable WCN to hire its first wildlife vet. In addition to saving wildlife, Dr. Avery Berkowitz, who was hired last year, also train staff, interns and volunteers. Prior to Berkowitz’s arrival, the animals were transported abroad for tests, surgeries and other procedures, delaying care and increasing stress on the animals.

WCN takes care of more than 200 species. About three quarters of the patients are birds, of which more than half are songbirds. The remaining wildlife is mainly made up of small mammals, including raccoons, striped skunks, and brush rabbits. About 60 percent of rescues come from southern SB County, nearly a quarter from Ventura County, and the rest from surrounding areas. Their helpline at (805) 681-1080 handles over 7,000 calls annually.

WCN has approximately 300 active volunteers and always welcomes new volunteers to answer the helpline, prepare food, clean, plan events, and more. While the goal of the capital campaign has been achieved, WCN needs funds for its day-to-day operations, which can now be expanded thanks to the new facilities and resources. It relies on private individuals and foundations for almost all of its income.

For more info about WCN, or to volunteer or make a donation, go to http://sbwcn.org

For coverage of other events, visit http://independent.com/society

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Director of Operations Julia Parker and Volunteer Scott Jordan | Credit: Gail Arnold
Board Members Mindy Denson and Becky Gaal | Credit: Gail Arnold
Board Member Connie Pearcy and Medical Director Dr. Avery Berkowitz | Credit: Gail Arnold
Volunteer Coordinator Liora Bregman, Development Coordinator Sabrina Skelly and Communications Manager Lauren Gonzales | Credit: Gail Arnold

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