Oakland urban wildlife center looking for new home


A little fawn now at the Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center was found on a busy street in Oakland.

"He was actually following people and crying as they walked down International Boulevard here in Oakland," Director Lila Travis said.

And 2-week-old squirrels were discovered alone and starving at Lake Merrit.

A baby hummingbird was found lying on a sidewalk by a little girl on a skateboard.

"She saw it at the last minute and stopped and scooped him up," Travis said.

All of the animals are now getting life saving care at the Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center in Oakland. The center is named for a mythological story, but the care the animals receive is very real.

The center was started 10 years ago by Travis and her husband when they found some baby possums whose mother had been killed.

They quickly learned that when it came to rescuing wild animals in Oakland, they were on their own.

"There just weren't the resources in the city to help these animals and as a result, because nobody had the expertise, they were euthanized," Travis said.

The couple took action and little by little their efforts grew into a wildlife center that now saves 500-600 animals a year.

About 50 volunteers care for the animals. The youngest babies sometimes go to foster homes first.

Margaret Sidells is in charge of squirrels. The tiny squirrel babies have to be fed every three hours, so Sidells carries them around in a crate wherever she goes.

"I think it's important to save urban wildlife because I feel kind of bad, humans have sort of infringed on a lot of their territory so I kind of feel I'm making up for that by helping their babies," Sidells said.

All the creatures at the center come from the area around Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda. Most have either been hit by cars or attacked by dogs, or their mothers have.

The animals get rehabilitated, and then are released in a safe place, as close as possible to where they were found.

"As they grow they are gonna become more wild and just like human teenagers, when they get to be at that point, they are not going to want anything to do with us," Travis said.

The wildlife center is in the Oakland hills on one-third of an acre. Grants, donations and volunteer labor created an elaborate network of pens that help the animals feel as if they are still in the wild.

The Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland and The Sams Clinic in Mill Valley contribute free medical care and the food is donated by Alameda Natural Grocery and Whole Foods.

It has taken years to put all this together, but the rescue effort is in serious trouble.

"Unfortunately, our wildlife center is in the process of being evicted," Travis said.

The center is on rented land and the landlord is taking the property off the rental market. The animals have to be out by mid-September.

"A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into making this place the wildlife center and it's really tragic that we have to leave so soon," Travis said.

So the race is on to find a new home. And it comes at an especially hard time, just when lots of wild animals have babies.

"For every animal that leaves, we are getting in two or three animals that are newly in need of care," Travis said.

Volunteers have found a perfect piece of property for a new center but need to raise more than a $150,000 to buy it. That may not happen fast enough, so they are looking for other creative solutions and are determined to continue their life saving work.

"It's actually quite rewarding when they are old enough to be released and you know that they can take care of themselves and we've done a good job," intern coordinator Shima Maddah said.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

To donate or volunteer with Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue go to www.yuwr.org or call the Wildlife Hotline at (510) 421-9897. You will also find information on the site for wildlife emergencies and to learn what to do and who to call if you find an injured or orphaned wild animal.

For information about raccoons, visit the Wildlife Center's Raccoon Team at www.ranchoraccoon.org or call (415) 488-1957.

If you have problems with wildlife on your property, Yggdrasil is affiliated with Good Riddance! Wildlife Exclusions, a nuisance wildlife mediation company. They solve wildlife problems without trapping and relocating (illegal in California), or killing. Go to www.goodriddancewildlife.com or (415) 342-7956.

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