What new issues have we discovered?
Due to a partial ceiling collapse in the kitchen and lobby we have discovered extensive evidence of rodent infestation within the ceiling and walls. While the Wildlife Care Center is a critical program within Portland Audubon, our immediate priority is the well-being of the staff, volunteers, and wild patients. We are acting immediately to remediate this issue and start the process of putting in new insulation, walls, ceilings and floors to make sure the building is ready to reopen.
The presence of mice is an unfortunate reality of having facilities in the forest. Our staff and volunteers work hard to deep clean the Wildlife Care Center facilities daily, and actively trap rodents to minimize their presence. We were unaware that there was this level of contamination from rodents in the areas we couldn’t see.
What ongoing problems does the Wildlife Care Center have and how have we been working to resolve them while waiting for a new facility?
The Wildlife Care Center is a complex facility that treats 5,000 animals per year, requires both indoor and outdoor space, exam and treatment areas, extensive enclosures for patients, and utilizes the talents of two hundred volunteers per year. We’ve known for more than ten years that our current facility is not sustainable in the long term and needs to be replaced. The building is too small for the volume of patients, doesn’t have the ability for appropriate isolation or quarantine for wildlife, lacks a surgical suite, can’t adequately handle large-scale events, and doesn’t have capacity for holding waterfowl or medium and large mammals. The building is 30 years old and has outgrown the region’s needs, leading to myriad issues, and not enough space for staff and volunteers, especially when working around wildlife who can present dangers from zoonotic diseases.
Based on these challenges, here are the steps* we have taken over the last five years or are in the process of taking to mitigate these issues, while working to find a new home for the Wildlife Care Center:
- Installed a ductless mini split to provide additional heating and cooling capacity
- Invested in additional exhaust fans, air purifiers, and UV filtration to improve air quality
- Replaced flooring in the kitchen
- Reclaimed space in the lobby and back porch to increase animal care space
- Made repairs to mews and rebuilt the existing mammal enclosure
- Invested in improving enclosures for ducklings at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast
- We will be investing in electrical upgrades
- Converted a meeting room for WCC staff and volunteer use
- We will be exploring our options for backup power generation and and an improved HVAC system
*This list just covers past and ongoing improvements from the last 5 years.
What has been the process to build a new Wildlife Care Center and why has it taken this long?
The Wildlife Care Center is a unique and vital program in the metro region and a beloved part of Portland Audubon’s mission and history. For decades volunteers and staff have rehabilitated tens of thousands of birds and other wildlife despite the shortcomings of the current facility and its location. Replacing the Wildlife Care Center has been a priority for Portland Audubon — but the Wildlife Care Center is a challenging facility to relocate, especially in an urban area where land is at a premium and larger sites that fit our specifications are hard to find.
2012: In 2012, our board and staff began the search for a new home for the Wildlife Care Center, working with architects, agencies, and partners. The initial process resulted in a Care Center that would cost more than a 2015 feasibility study found we could raise. We still continued looking for more economical options for sites, including a potential partnership at Grant Butte and others sites in the metro area.
2016/2017: Due to costs and feasibility, the board decided to renovate our existing building rather than search for a new site. That renovation transitioned to a full rebuild of the facility. We worked with an architect to design a building that would better address our needs, expanding it to two floors rather than one, doubling the size, building a surgical suite, and installing new heating, cooling, and electrical systems, as well a quarantine area, more enclosures, and space for public education. We were simultaneously working on a campaign to rebuild Marmot Cabin, our education facility in Sandy that also needed a complete rebuild due to ongoing issues. We completed the Marmot capital campaign and construction project first while preparing for the rebuild of the Wildlife Care Center.
2021: As we were completing final permitting and architectural refinements on the project, concerns about the long-term sustainability of our septic system that support all Audubon facilities began to arise. The system had been reviewed throughout the project, but a number of factors caused us to want to take a deeper dive and truly ensure our activities would fully protect the Balch Creek Watershed. We also wanted to ensure our project and donor investment would be sustainable. In September 2021, we temporarily delayed the project in order to consult with a variety of experts about the septic system.
After bringing in more than a dozen experts—septic system designers and technicians, geotechnical engineers, soil scientists, planners, and permitters—the results came in. The new Care Center would put too much pressure on our septic system, so we made the decision to find a new location for the Wildlife Care Center instead of on the Cornell campus.
2021 – Present: Our staff have been working hard, determining site criteria and embarking on a site search for a new location. We worked with campaign counsel to conduct an updated feasibility study to estimate how much we could raise for the project. We have also scaled back our 2012 project scope of work (which had included large education facilities) to ensure it was financially feasible. We are working with a commercial real estate agent, partners, agencies, and landowners to locate properties and review sites as expeditiously as possible. We hope to have a location secured by the spring. As soon as we have a site, we will begin site planning, and fundraising to support the building of the new Wildlife Care Center as quickly as possible.
When will our current Wildlife Care Center reopen?
We hope to be back open to the public in March once repairs are complete. In the meantime, we are continuing to do the following to support wildlife and the public:
- Our wildlife hotline is open from 9 – 5 daily (503-292-0304 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to answer questions about injured or orphaned wildlife and help resolve wildlife conflicts.
- DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital is accepting wildlife patients that cannot be transported directly to other regional wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Portland Audubon staff and volunteers are working closely with Dove Lewis to assess, stabilize, and then transport patients to other wildlife rehabilitation facilities around the state.
- We are looking at possible temporary facilities that would allow our staff and volunteers to accept patients directly for assessment and stabilization prior to transport to other facilities. Although a temporary facility would not dramatically change the services currently available to the public and animals in need, it would serve to lighten the load on the already stretched resources of our local emergency domestic veterinary services. However, repairs on our building are projected to take only a few weeks, and depending on the timeline for securing and moving into a temporary site, a temporary facility may or may not make sense in this time frame.
We want to thank all our volunteers, donors, and staff who have supported the Wildlife Care Center and who care deeply about wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. We’re committed to ensuring the Wildlife Care Center finds a new permanent home, giving it a sustainable future for decades to come, and to making necessary renovations to the current facility to repair the damage. While these recent developments are troubling, I will be transparent and keep you fully informed of developments as we proceed with repair and remediation.