ARLINGTON — Every update makes it easier to balance day-to-day chores, seasonal crowds of baby critters and surprise rescues for injured animals.
Sarvey Wildlife Care Center is two years into a remodel of its animal hospital, outdoor enclosures, office space and human housing. Located off Burn Road in rural Arlington, the center specializes in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing native wildlife.
In 35 years, people there have seen a lot. There have been coyotes, bobcats and bald eagles along with thousands of bunnies, squirrels, raccoons, ducks and songbirds.
Over the past two years, they’ve overhauled bathrooms in a house that serves as an office to make it into intern housing, put a new roof on and repainted outside walls. Now they’re working on replacing flooring in the animal hospital, which includes an intensive care unit, nursery and laundry room.
The linoleum floor in the building is spotted with patches of black duct tape where it’s started to split. This winter, workers have been installing new medical-grade flooring. It’s a cheerful robin’s egg blue and designed to be durable and easy to clean.
The laundry room needs more work, Executive Director Suzanne West said. She wants to replace an old tub with two separate tubs, one for washing and the other for water therapy for animals such as ducks, beavers or otters. A new washer and dryer would help volunteers get through countless loads of linens. West expects plumbing and fixtures will be the biggest expense in the ongoing renovation project. She set up a GoFundMe webpage with a goal of raising $100,000.
Outside, there are enclosures and bird flights where patients transition from the hospital to nature. The wooden sides of those enclosures are being replaced with metal. A new cement floor has been poured for the duckling area and the roof of a shelter that collapsed in December was recently replaced. Volunteers plan to rebuild the eagle flight in 2017.
Wildlife rehabilitator Miki Forsberg started helping at Sarvey three years ago. After a dramatic bald eagle rescue in Bothell on Wednesday, she and intern Faith Stein expertly cleaned the 10-pound bird’s ravaged claw and gave it medication.
Forsberg is excited about the improvements to the animal hospital. She expects the upgrades will make her tasks easier.
“It’s amazing,” Forsberg said. “When I started here, it was so different. It’s nice to see the renovations.”
The projects are stretched out of over a few years for fundraising and to fit work into the narrow winter window before baby season.
Sarvey has about 20 patients right now. Between March and October, they get upward of 200 at a time.
“It comes in waves,” West said. “It ebbs and flows because different species have babies at different times. And then, just when you think it’s over, you get the second wave of baby bunnies and baby squirrels.”
About half of the wildlife at Sarvey are birds and half are mammals. Raccoons, squirrels and rabbits are common and the birds come in all sizes, from delicate songbirds to raptors with eight-foot wingspans.
“We see everything,” West said.
Last year, they took care of 10 orphaned fawns. This month, there’s a snow goose recovering from a gunshot wound. There’s also a pair of beavers, one adult female and the other an orphaned male kit, who bonded and are expected to be released together this spring.
Sarvey connects people to other resources for treating domestic animals such as cows, horses or llamas. They work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, local law enforcement and fellow animal rescues and shelters. They’ve taken in a “pet” coyote after a drug house was busted by police in Arlington and rescued three baby opossums from the home of an elderly lady who called for help after noticing one of them in her bed stand.
There aren’t enough volunteers or hours in the day to pick up every animal in need, so small mammals and birds are best contained in a box and dropped off. Expert rescue operations are necessary for large or dangerous animals.
“We probably have five or six crazy rescues a year,” West said.
The saddest cases are wild animals that were raised around humans. They often can’t be released because they don’t know how to care for themselves or interact with their own species.
“When people find an orphaned or injured animal, they shouldn’t care for it themselves,” West said. “You don’t want to teach wild animals to run up to people.”
Sarvey Wildlife Center started as the Everett Wildlife Center in 1981 and moved to Arlington in 1987. Founder Kaye Baxter lived there until she died of cancer in 2008. The name Sarvey came from her close friend and fellow wildlife advocate Bill Sarvey.
The center has three full-time and two part-time staff along with eight interns throughout the year and 20 to 50 volunteers, depending on the season. They’ll be looking for a more volunteers in April for baby season. An application is online at sarveywildlife.org/volunteer.aspx.
People interested in donating for daily operations or the remodel can do so online at sarveywildlife.org/donate.aspx, through the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center Facebook page or by mailing a donation to PO Box 3590, Arlington, WA, 98223.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org