The summer months are already busy for animal rehabilitation centers, and now that the Eugene area no longer has a resource for injured wild animals, Corvallis’ Chintimini Wildlife Center is overwhelmed with wildlife.
Mary Estes, the wildlife rehabilitation director at Chintimini, says that June through September is always busy for the center thanks to basic animal behavior.
“This time of year is called busy season,” Estes says. “Babies are being born, migratory birds come back.”
But since Eugene’s Willamette Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center closed permanently last year, Chintimini has been the only wildlife rehab in the area. That means things are even busier for Estes and her team, as Eugene animals account for about a quarter of Chintimini’s patient load.
Chintimini says they think Willamette Wildlife has closed due to permitting issues. However, the Eugene-based wildlife rescue’s phone lines have been disconnected. And the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife didn’t respond to a request for comment before press time.
“If we didn’t serve the Eugene area, we’d still be busy, busy, busy,” Estes says on the influx of cases. “But this is adding on a whole other service area.”
Chintimini is open every day of the year from 9 am to 7 pm, but Estes says her staff is typically there until 10 or midnight.
Estes says the patient count is steadily increasing, year-by-year. Last year at this time Chintimini was on patient 514. This year, they’re on patient 608. The influx is not all negative — Estes says that as more people find out that there is a place for injured animals to go, more people bring them in.
But increased human-wildlife interaction, which results in more vehicle collisions, can also account for more patients. Estes also attributes some injuries to fights between wild animals and domestic cats.
More animal rehabilitation centers in the area would be helpful, but there is a long process to get them started, and while the job is rewarding, it’s not always enchanting, she says.
“Wildlife rehab is a career that some people might think is glamorous,” Estes says. “But you’re so overworked and underpaid, and it’s hard to be well-equipped. It takes years of training where you’re basically doing it for free.”
Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene also takes injured wildlife, but limits its cases to its specialty — raptors such as eagles and owls. Estes says Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center in Salem is also an option, but for Eugeneans, Chintimini is now the nearest place.
“It would be amazing for every city to have its own. There are a lot of injured animals, and lots of them die,” Estes says.
Chintimini has about 100 volunteers doing three shifts a day. Estes says she is looking to bring on some transport volunteers to transport animals from Eugene to Corvallis, where they can get help.
“Animals are more likely to live if they get help right away,” Estes says. She says that if people see an injured animal, they should call as soon as they can.
Estes expects the patient count to continue to rise, and is a bit overwhelmed when she considers the future.
“I try to get through one day at a time,” she says. “My vision is to get through every day, get every patient taken care of and stable.”
Chintimini Wildlife Center is in Corvallis. More information is available at chintiminiwildlife.org. If you see an injured animal, call Chintimini at 541-745-5324 or Oregon Fish and Wildlife at 541-726-3515.