A Year in Review: 2022 at the Wildlife Care Center

by Stephanie Herman, Wildlife Care Center Manager

When I think back on 2022, the past 12 months feel more like a five-year recap. It was a challenging year for Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center and for wildlife rehabbers across Oregon.

The easy part is the numbers: As of December 2, 2022, we cared for 4,314 patients and coached people through 9,440 events involving wildlife emergencies and humane solutions. Cats continue to be our number-one cause of injury, followed by orphaning, habitat or nest destruction, windows, cars, and dogs. Our volunteer team is back to pre-COVID levels, with almost 200 individuals contributing a stunning 21,000+ hours.

Geese and goslings on a grassy knoll
Due to Avian Influenza, the WCC facilitated fostering of dozens of ducklings and goslings to wild parents, including the goslings in this photo. Photo by Mandy Sims

What’s harder to quantify is everything our team adapted to during the course of the year. In fact, one hallmark of the past few years has been that we are always finding ways to keep going in the face of seemingly never-ending curveballs. While 2022 brought challenges and changes, there were great triumphs too, and we’re proud to continue to center the animals and community that needs us.

This year it was the people of the Wildlife Care Center who shone brightest. We are so grateful to have been able to bring our full volunteer team back, restoring 75% of the crew we lost over the previous two years. More than half of our volunteers were entirely new, and the vast majority of the remainder had been on hiatus for two years. Staff worked hard to train or refresh nearly everyone, and our volunteers went above and beyond to get up to speed. Our three inaugural WCC interns were a joy to work with and left with the start of a successful, impactful career in wildlife rehabilitation. A donor doubled our veterinary hours, significantly increasing our capacity to respond to more complex and urgent medical needs.

Early in the spring, we saw Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emerge on the western flyway and here in Oregon, and we were forced to make the heartbreaking decision to close the Care Center to waterfowl patients in order to protect our other avian patients and personnel. To try to alleviate the impacts of this necessity, we funneled resources into fostering wild ducklings and goslings with wild parents as much as possible, as pictured in the photo above. We hoped that this outbreak would follow historical trends and fizzle out in the summer months, allowing us to return to normal. But as of the end of the year, Oregon continues to experience an upward trend in cases, delaying our projected return to waterfowl care for another season.

It might be an understatement to say the last three years have been hard for those of us working in the Care Center. We have poured ourselves into our service, physically and emotionally. We often casually wish to go back to the time when the world felt more stable and our work ebbed and flowed with the seasons. But as hard as it has been, our persistence earned us both joy and growth. Those of us who have gone through this together are closer and fiercer in our compassion for and protection of each other. We have new team members and new opportunities, and the future is full; we are overflowing with plans to better help our community share space with wildlife. And there is a growing understanding of our own resilience: we are still here, serving the public and the animals that need us.
We’ll be back soon with another update. In the meantime, if you find injured wildlife or need to work out a humane solution for a wildlife conflict, you know where to find us.

503-292-0304 or wildlife@birdallianceoregon.org