Injured and sick wild squirrels and some types of birds will soon have a place to recover in North County.
The Rancho Coastal Humane Society will open the San Diego Wildlife Center in the fall. The center, which will be located in an industrial part of Carlsbad on Camino Vida Robles, will provide a space for North County residents to take injured seed-eating squirrels, songbirds and shorebirds, said John Van Zante, public relations director for the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas.
The humane society has worked for several months to open the center, he said. It had to work with the state to get proper permitting and inspections.
"You can't just decide to help wildlife one day and have it happen immediately," Van Zante said. "There are a lot of laws regarding wildlife. The legwork on this to get to where we are now has been quite long and quite intense."
He said if someone finds an injured wild animal, they are encouraged to take it to the Wildlife Center, where medical professionals would determine the extent of the injury. If the animal is treatable, it will get treatments and medications and stay there until it is stabilized. Once it is stabilized and recovering, the animal will be transferred to a barn at Rancho Coastal Humane Society to continue its trip back to health until it can be released back into the wild.
Van Zante said wild animals play a huge role in North County, and used to be even more prominent in the area.
"This is kind of a return to our roots," he said of the importance of the Wildlife Center. "When Rancho Coastal opened in 1960, there was a dirt path behind the shelter we now know as the I-5 Freeway. There would be all these foxes, sea lions, raccoons, possums, skunks and other animals in the area. So, when the shelter started there was a lot of wildlife in this area."
As Encinitas grew, the majority of the animals migrated east, but some animals still linger around the city, he noted.
It is important to note that animals don't live in the humans' community; the humans live in theirs, Van Zante said.
"In Coastal North County, there is a lot of wildlife," he said. "Anywhere you are in San Diego County, you are surrounded by wildlife. What we want to do is make it so people in this part of the county — who find sick or injured wildlife — have a place to go where it's closer and easier for them to take action. Every animal deserves a tomorrow."
For more information about the Wildlife Center and to donate, visit sdpets.org.