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A Visit to Sonoma County’s Wildlife Rescue

Raccoons at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue in Petaluma.

One of the best adventures I've had recently involved a visit to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a small, energetic non-profit on the bucolic eastern edge of Petaluma that accomplishes an amazing number of big things in Sonoma County’s wildlife arena.

As the name Wildlife Rescue suggests, the organization rescues imperiled animals — about 1,500 each year, ranging from tiny songbirds to mountain lions. It provides them with medical care when needed, including surgery, and rehabilitates them for release back into the wild.

I was hooked right from the start of my visit, when I stood outside a window with Michelle Fowler, the organization's Education Outreach Director, to watch a 5-week-old raccoon being fed. Weighing less than one pound, it was nestled into the gloved hand of a volunteer, who held a bottle of raccoon-specific formula to its mouth.

“That’s just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” I said.

Fowler nodded in agreement, and then put the feeding into a practical perspective. “That little guy is going to cost us about $500,” she said, “and we’re supported by donations.”

A lot of motherless animals end up here, and the expense of rehabilitating and eventually releasing them is a burden for a donation-dependent non-profit. Their mothers may have been killed by a predator or, as often happens, were illegally trapped and re-released far from home.

Fowler suggests that, for people who want to keep wildlife away from their homes, the purchase of a $30 predator scent is extremely effective. And it has an upside in not separating mothers from their babies.

In addition to rescue activities, Wildlife Rescue undertakes many other programs. 

Other Wildlife Rescue Programs:

  • On the grounds are an educational wildlife community (with non-releasable wildlife — including mountain lions, coyotes, and foxes — in natural enclosures), a raptor recovery center, educational barnyard, wildlife education garden and much more. You can see and learn about these facilities and animals on a tour (see below).
  • An education outreach program that offers presentations to local schools and community organizations, appears at fairs and local farmers markets, and promotes peaceful co-existence with wildlife.
  • A wildlife exclusion service that offers homes and businesses humane solutions for dealing with "nuisance" wildlife (animals that have found their way inside walls, into attics, under buildings, etc.). Learn more about the wildlife exclusion service.
  • An animal drop off service that operates seven days per week. Get more details about what to do when you find an animal.
  •  The award-winning PEEP (Predator Exclusion and Educational Barnyard Program). Learn more about PEEP.
  • On-site, unpaid internships that teach students 18 and older about wildlife conservation, how to properly work with and handle wildlife, and much more.
  • Two vibrant volunteer programs — one for adults, and one for children between the ages of 13 and 18.

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue welcomes the public for guided tours on Saturdays only, at 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. Tour fees, which help support Wildlife Rescue, are $20 for an adult, $10 for children 4-12, and free for children under 4. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the beautiful hilltop view before or after the tour.

The center also offers a private tour ($150 for up to 25 people); a Behind the Scenes Tour ($200 for up to 10 people); an Enrichment Tour ($200 for up to 10); and the VIP private tour ($300 for up to six).

Details: Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, 403 Mecham Road, Petaluma; hotline 707-526-9453; business office 707-992-0274

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