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Wildlife find refuge at Stanislaus care center

From Bella the resident Eastern Red Fox to a host of early arrival baby squirrels and owls, the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center is home to a bevy of critters — both cute and creepy depending on your disposition — that make up the menagerie of wild things roaming Stanislaus County.

The Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center is a non-profit organization that takes in and cares for wounded, orphaned or abandoned wildlife. The goal for nearly every bird, reptile, or mammal is to release them back into their natural habitat, though some through circumstances find permanent homes at the center.

The Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center was founded in 1984 by six people who had $300, no facilities to speak of, but plenty of gumption. The founding six members — Donna Burt, Phil McKay, Brian Feyler, Marsha Feyler, Diane Duncan, and Jeremy Obers, with Turlock veterinarian, Dr. Douglas Marks providing veterinary services — have built up an organization that for more than 30 years has given respite and refuge to the area’s animals in need. They’ve built a home on two acres of land running along the Tuolumne River and amassed a membership that tallies more than 1,000 individuals on the ranks, and is manned by a collection of dedicated volunteers.

“I had spent time at another center and really felt there was a need for one in Stanislaus County,” said Burt, who in addition to being a founding member, is also the center’s executive director. “We were all committed to the mission of caring for the animals so that they could eventually be released back into their natural habitat.”

From the humble starts in a garage, where they could only care for a few animals, the center has grown to a point where each year sees more than a thousand animals pass through the doors. In 2014, the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center admitted 2,061 animals representing 113 different species. The center includes a mammal complex, an aviary for raptors, a coyote enclosure and a deer yard.

The center is in the process of growing again with the addition of all new bird cages and an eagle aviary. The eagle aviary was a planned expense the center had been fundraising for, but the need for new cages was a surprise, which comes with a hefty cost. The center is hopeful that the unexpected costs will be covered through donations and from their annual baby shower fundraiser, planned for May 16. The Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center will be opening their doors to the public and providing information about the many creatures that find refuge at the facility. The festivities will include special presentations, children’s games, and food and refreshments.

“This is a good opportunity for people to learn about the wildlife center, the animals we care for, and the volunteers who work here,” Burk said.

Just like other baby showers, the wildlife center is hoping that guests will come with presents in hand. Items that are most in need by the center are: paper towels, Dawn dish soap, unflavored Pedialyte, hand soap, Playtex gloves, Simple Green, bleach, new heating pads that are not auto shut-off, large trash bags, printer paper, toilet paper, unscented laundry soap, and money.

The center takes in animals year round, with the busy season running from the end of the April to the start of September.

The Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center is located at 1220 Geer Rd. in Hughson, next to the Fox Grove Fishing Access.