By Clara Watson
The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is a local center where citizens can take endangered or abandoned wildlife to get healed and rehabilitated back into the wild. They also have a helpline running all day, where citizens can call whenever they see an animal potentially hurt. The SBWCN is always there to rescue any wildlife that needs help. If you ever see an animal in the Santa Barbara or Ventura community in distress call; (805) 681-1080.
Over the summer I had the honor to interview Marianne, a volunteer working at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. She started working there in February 2019 and began doing cleaning work and eventually moved on to caring for mammals. Right now she is mostly on the helpline, soothing worried callers, or rescuing animals to bring back to the center to get rehabilitated. Marianne’s answers were all centered around respect, respect for all the wildlife in the Santa Barbara community, and respect to her fellow volunteers who donate their time to help even the smallest creature live a long and happy life. Her answers were so impactful to me, and illustrated how the SBWCN has built up such a strong community throughout all its volunteers. It was so heartwarming to hear about such a devoted group of individuals all joined together for one common goal; to rehabilitate and protect wildlife in our flourishing Santa Barbara community.
What is your favorite animal native to California?
“I like them all. Squirrels are one of my favorites. I fostered them in my home when they were little babies. This is something I found so special, each little creature (each bird, each mouse, each squirrel) they all have very distinctly different personalities. I’ll sit and watch the hummingbirds in my yard and see them play and chase each other, and the birds will sit out there and look at me, or gaze around curiously….It’s brought about a deep awareness of our world for me.”
Marianne has been working as a helpline volunteer recently, and told me what a joy it is hearing so many citizens concerned for the welfare of our local wildlife.
“I’ve been handling phones lately, getting 20 or 30 calls a day. The people that call are so heartwarming, and so appreciative that we are here. A lot of people call and say, ‘I didn’t even know you guys existed!’ It makes me feel really good that I’m able to help them. Santa Barbara is very involved, they would be more involved if more people knew about it. The people that call are all very helpful, they are of likeminds……We’re all working together in Santa Barbara to help these little animals do well.”
What is the most peculiar helpline phone call you’ve ever gotten?
“Well I’ll get people that call in about once every four days saying:
‘There is this baby opossum in my backyard, I don’t see his mother, I don’t know what to do!’ We’ll talk for a while, and I’ll say,
‘Everything’s fine, it’s ok, how big is he without his tail?’
‘He’s about 8 inches or so,’
‘8 inches, he’s fine to live without his mother,’
‘Oh but he’s so cute…’
‘It’s ok, you’re doing everything just right,’
We’ll go on for about 15 minutes, and they are so worried that this little opossum isn’t going to make it or survive. I know he will, he’s big enough.…The people that call are so wrapped up in the health and the care of any creature. Most of the time they need to just be soothed, and told that everything is going to be ok.”
Are there any tactics you use to help calm down an animal when it first arrives at the center?
“Have no noise, try to remember anything and everything will cause them stress. Their whole existence is based on staying alive, anything can upset them, so you just have to try to remain very neutral around the new wildlife.”
What inspires you to volunteer, what motivates you to keep going?
“…..I drove 3 and half hours just to pick up a little sparrow that had fallen from its nest. I thought, ‘What am I doing? This is so crazy, it’s just one little bird,’ but it was alive. In the whole scheme of life, that bird didn’t really matter, but he mattered to me. It was a life, and I have a very high regard for life. It’s god’s little creature…..they live by the laws of nature and I respect that very much. I guess the answer is just a respect for the animals.”
As we were wrapping up our call Marianne gave a final remark on why the SBWCN was so dear to her heart:
“There is something very special about the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, everybody there works really hard, and it’s all for the love of these little creatures. All these people could go elsewhere and make more money and have a more prestigious job. But they stay because everybody associated with that place has a deep respect and love for the animals. I know when I’m there I have a lot in common with everybody else, there’s a camaraderie there…. It’s kind of a spiritual place, not in a religious sense but in the way that these little creatures bring more joy to the rest of us, the humans, than anyone can imagine.”
Thank you Marianne for your inspiring service and devotion to helping protect and care for our local wildlife.
You can visit the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network here: https://www.sbwcn.org/