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.
Tina is an animal care volunteer at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. She has helped care and nurture mallard ducklings along with other small birds and geese for the last year and a half. She ended up specializing in ducklings when Gretchen (a board member) saw her standing off to the side her very first day, not having an assignment yet. Gretchen kindly invited her over to duckling and geese and ‘took her under her wing’. Tina has been working with ducklings ever since, and fell in love with volunteering.
She remarked how when she was 8, she wrote an article for school that she was either going to be a veterinarian, a dentist, pilot, or a history teacher. She did go on to become a dentist and has been able to apply a vast amount of medical knowledge to her volunteer work. She explained how she’s too emotional to have ever ended up being a veterinarian, however she’s grateful she gets to achieve part of that dream of helping animals through volunteering. Tina learned very quickly that comforting a duck is worlds apart from comforting a dog or a cat. She explained how it’s important not to make sudden movements, to not talk around them, and that ducks tend not to respond well to petting. We had a good laugh when she demonstrated how to imitate their chirping and clucking sounds, saying how it usually calms them down, and makes the ducks feel safe.
A couple things that surprised Tina about small birds was how you can manipulate and move their wings. “I feel like they’re so dainty, but they’re much more resilient and durable than they look.” She was also taken aback by how fast some of the ducklings can be. She retold a story how one brave duckling decided to make a mad dash through the door, and they had to chase it around for quite some time with a net. “It was exhausting!” she laughed at the end.
During our interview I asked, What are some ways the SBWCN and their help with rehabilitating wildlife positively impact the SB community? Tina had some remarkable answers to this question.
“In many ways, it brings awareness. I think a lot of people have misconceptions about wildlife. I’ll see people commenting next door about how there’s a coyote in the neighborhood and we need to call the police. The thing we have to realize is this is their world, we just live in it.”
Tina went on to explain all the ways we’re limiting coyotes space to roam, from roads to homes to freeways, and how valuable they can be to the ecosystems “….Of course it’s a horrible thing that a coyote might take a pet’s life, but coyotes eat rats and other critters people don’t want to deal with.” She said the same thing happens with possum. People will call them ugly or threatening, however they end up eating tons of ticks and other bugs people dislike. She also included how a more eco friendly and safe alternative to rat poisoning would be to set up an owl box on your property. This shows as citizens we have a responsibility to protect our wildlife, and appreciate all the good they do for our community.
“….Shortly after I moved here I found a bird sitting in the middle of the road and he let me pick him up. It was a finch and his eyes were all crusted over. When I brought him to the SBWCN center, the volunteers educated me about how people are putting up bird feeders and bird baths, and bacteria is breeding in them and is causing this conjunctivitis and inflammation. When birds or other critters consume the water and are not treated, they’ll go blind and die.”
She went on to explain that if those people putting up the baths and feeders were educated about the dangerous bacteria spreading, they could put a system in place to keep them clean. To me this is such a valuable illustration of how fragile our ecosystems can be, and how even the smallest act of carelessness by humans can have drastic effects on local wildlife. I’ve never really considered this before but Tina brought up how the media needs to tie in the more educational piece of rehabilitation more. “……They’ll be these news stories saying, ‘Look how many animals got rehabitled,’ however we need to include what we can do to not put these animals in these dangerous situations in the first place.” Tina’s overall consensus was; when you rehabilitate animals the biggest thing you can do is educate the community about how to prevent the endangerment from happening again. I hope everyone reading this has learned a valuable lesson about how to interact and respect wildlife. It was an honor getting to hear Tina’s story and all the wonderful work she is doing to keep Santa Barbara’s duck and geese population thriving and healthy.
You can visit the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network here: https://www.sbwcn.org/