What started in 1998 as two years of training and three acres of vacant land, had become in 2000, the nonprofit corporation, Tucson Wildlife Center(TWC), and has grown to over five acres with plans to build a full-service hospital- a first of its kind for a wildlife rescue center in Southern Arizona.   Co-founder and President, Lisa Bates, grew up in Tucson and has rescued animals since childhood and worked with Sara Gorby, a well-known local wildlife rescuer/rehabilitator.  After “retiring” from her successful career as an agricultural researcher, she  had a vision and she and her husband, Peter Lininger, a masonry contractor,  teamed up to create the Tucson Wildlife Center, which now incorporates dedicated rescue and transport vehicles, surgery, laboratory and intensive care rooms,  flight cages, acclimation pens and 24 hour, 7 days a week care.  Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured, sick and orphaned wild animals back into the wild.  They operate solely on donations and seventy extremely dedicated volunteers.  “We have the best volunteers a non-profit could ask for,” says Lisa.  They provide the community with a 24/7 rescue hotline, 290-WILD (9453), which receives approximately twenty five calls per day during spring and fall, and about fifteen calls per day in the winter.  They will travel as far as necessary for a rescue and always release the animals back to their original territory. The Center also helps staff the Southwest Regional Helpline.

Tucson Wildlife Center specializes in the large animals.  Since they began, they have rescued over 2,000 animals from injury and death, and rescue 250 to 300 animals per year.  Due to the ever growing population of our city, there is a constant need for their services.  Tucson Wildlife Center is developing a program with SAHBA (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association) to work with developers to check the development site for wildlife and relocate them to a safe place, thus allowing for a winning situation for all involved.  They also have an “Adopt an Animal” program, where you can sponsor the sanctuary and care of an animal which cannot be returned to the wild.   The wildlife includes bobcats, javelina, foxes, raccoons, hawks, eagles, herons, ravens, owls, vultures, among others.

Their “Community Outreach Program” brings their education animals and goes to area schools and organizations to educate people on what TWC does and what to do if you find an injured, sick or orphaned wild animal.   They also have two new Public Service Announcements that will begin airing on television to educate people on who to call if they find a wild animal in need. If you find injured, sick or orphaned wildlife, please call the Southwest Regional Helpline (520) 903-1104, to discuss the animals’ condition, what you should do, and whether the animal should be brought in or rescued.   After business hours, please call (520) 290-WILD (9453).

Their first hospital fundraiser in November, 2007, was successful in raising a portion of the funds.  They envision several phases to complete the hospital and research center and more help is needed.  They have several volunteer opportunities and a wish list.

If you’d like to get involved in any way, and/or make a donation, please contact them at (520) 290-WILD, or visit them online at: www.tucsonwildlife.com.

Robin Motzer is a local freelance writer.  She can be reached at rmotzerdesigns@comcast.net