Wildlife Care Center Site Update

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

The search for a new Wildlife Care Center site is well underway and running strong. Finding a site within the metro region that meets the complex specifications of a wildlife rehabilitation center is undoubtedly a challenge. We are searching for the proverbial unicorn: a large, developable site that is easily accessible by the community yet isolated enough that it is suitable for housing and treating wild animals, and one that is ideally low or no cost so that we can maximize our investment in developing the hospital, animal enclosures, and public educational areas.

A photo of our Wildlife Care Center taken from the parking lot. It also shows the covered walkway that goes in front of our Admin building.

The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive and exciting. We have received hundreds of suggestions from agencies, sister organizations, our membership, and the public at large. We have also retained an outstanding real estate firm, Apex, to help us identify and sort through sites. Tonkin Torp LLP has generously donated their services to help guide us through the regulatory and legal aspects involved with some of the sites we are exploring.

The upshot is that there are many intriguing sites on the landscape, and we have elevated about a dozen for advanced exploration. All are complex in one way or another. Many large, developable sites in the region are undeveloped today because of site constraints. Many are brownfields. Portland Audubon has worked for decades on the policy and advocacy side of remediating and revitalizing polluted urban sites. One aspect of this search is exploring the potential to actually acquire one of these sites and turn it into something that truly provides meaningful benefits to the community.

The search has also given us a chance to meet with dozens of community partners and talk with a huge range of individuals who have informally provided input and insights. Those conversations will inform the project as it moves forward, and opportunities for more formal community input will expand once we acquire a site and move into the design phase. One recurring theme is just how many people and organizations have had a positive personal experience with the Wildlife Care Center—brought us an animal, attended a release, called us for support or advice with a wildlife issue, learned about local wildlife through one of our ambassador animal programs. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising—the current center was built in 1987, more than 100,000 wild animals have passed through our doors, and we have responded to nearly half a million wildlife calls. The Care Center is woven deeply into the fabric of a community that cares passionately about its wildlife.
Additional benefits have already started accruing. A generous anonymous donor provided a million dollar fund to endow a veterinarian position. This allows us to increase veterinary staffing from half to full time in perpetuity who joins Dr. Connie Lo on our veterinary team.

All the while, our existing Care Center continues to operate and has treated over 3,000 wild animals so far this year.

Parallel to the site search, we have selected Mahlum Architects and Jones & Jones Architects to lead the design process. Once we have a site, the design phase will kick into high gear. More on that to come!

Please keep the site suggestions coming. Those we have received are good, but none are sure bets. Until a site is acquired we need to hear about as many opportunities as we can. Our basic criteria can be found here. Potential sites should be sent to Portland Audubon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger at bsallinger@audubonportland.org.