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A Conversation with Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

Recently, Protect Coyote Valley talked with Laura Hawkins, the Executive Director of local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization, the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (WCSV).  Longtime fans of their adorable videos of convalescing critters, we wanted to find our more about the work that goes into helping injured wild animals animals survive and thrive in an increasingly urban environment.

Laura Hawkins has been the Executive Director of WCSV since 2016, after beginning as a Project Manager the prior year. Her career with animals began with pets and other domestic animals and transitioned to wildlife, creatures less immediately sympathetic to many members of the public.

I asked Ms. Hawkins for a recent success story at the center and she mentions three bobcats they have in care.  Two are siblings that lost their mother, and one was hit by a car. They are recovering well at the Center and are maintaining a healthy fear of their caretakers. “One of the boys just sits in his hammock and hisses at me when I walk by,” Hawkins reports which is exactly what the staff at the Center likes to see.

A typical animal is brought to the Center by a member of the general public or an animal control agency. “95% of animals are there because of human interaction,” Hawkins says, and, when asked if road traffic is a major factor, “The short answer is yes.”  Another major problem is habituation. The difficulty in restoring wild instincts is a significant one. Hawkins relates the story of a squirrel that had been kept by a family for more than two years and had to undergo significant re-wilding lessons. Fortunately, WCSV was able to release this animal.

I ask if the center is ever challenged by folks who believe they’re intervening inappropriately in nature’s affairs. “We don’t get a lot of people saying you’re not letting nature take its course,” Hawkins relates.   “Most often they tell us they’re glad we’re giving them another chance at a wild life.”

WCSV emphasizes the need for peaceful coexistence more and more as human activity squeezes wildlife into tighter quarters and interactions between humans, pets, and wildlife become more probable. In the last several years, there’s been about a 30% increase in opossums brought to the Center. They have also seen an uptick in predatory mammals being cared for due to the increase in human/animal interactions.

With the deck stacked against them, is there any hope for wildlife in the region?  Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley offers a hopeful answer. People across the region can do their part by practicing peaceful coexistence, using humane deterrents for wildlife instead of traditional traps and poison, and remembering the value that wild animals bring to the environment.  So, if there’s a wild creature who needs help, you know who to call.

About Protect Coyote Valley

The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education, and the Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.

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