2023 Summer Newsletter | Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue

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We've Got the 3 Bears, Now All We Need is a Goldilocks!

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Breaks Ground of the Apex Predator Enclosure

We are thrilled to announce that after three years of planning and over two years of fundraising, we have finally broken ground on our Apex Predator Enclosure (APE). In this time, we have learned firsthand how much a facility of this magnitude is needed in the state of California. Currently, out of 80 CDFW permitted wildlife centers across our state, there are only three other centers with the ability to rehabilitate black bear cubs and options for mountain lions are even more limited. This lack of resources can lead to the incredibly difficult decision of needing to euthanize an animal due to the lack of appropriate rehabilitation resources. Our hope is that once the APE is finalized, these tough calls will be few and far between.

The Three Cubs Explore Their Enclosure for the First Time

The most recent example of just how our resources can make a difference in the lives of wildlife is the arrival of three male black bear cubs from a human wildlife conflict situation in South Lake Tahoe. The problem which has had a lot of media attention is that their mother was very good at breaking into cars and houses to rummage for food. Because of this, their mother became a threat to humans. So when she had 3 male cubs and was teaching them that same unwanted behavior, something had to be done. Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is honored to be a part of these cubs’ journey back to the wild and have implemented an enrichment plan we are confident will correct any previous behavior issues they may have learned from their mother in the wild. So far, they are thriving and exhibiting behaviors expected of young, wild bear cubs. Included in the media coverage, is a story from our friends at KRON 4 which highlighted not only the bear cubs' arrival, but also the groundbreaking of our APE! Click here to watch!

With a project of this size and cost, the APE’s development was broken into stages from the start. While the financial impact of this enclosure has increased in the past two years due to the increase in the cost of equipment, labor, and materials, we have raised enough funds to complete Phases 1-4.

We started with Phase One – APE Development Plans, three years ago planning this enclosure from the ground up. Our team has met countless times, scrutinizing, and dreaming up every single detail of this enclosure in conjunction with visiting other black bear rehabilitation centers across the country to learn from them.

Phase Two – Tree Removal, has been an ongoing process with Hodgin and Son’s Tree Care returning time and time again to help remove trees in order to have a secluded and safe space to construct this enclosure.

Ghilotti Brothers helped us with Phase Three – Groundwork by moving the felled trees into position so that we can use them for enrichment and extra security to prevent escape once the project is complete. 

That brings us to today and the start of Phase Four – Building Enclosure #1. This is perhaps the most exciting part of the APE to date. Enclosure #1 is the largest enclosure in the APE and will be about the size of a football field, compared to their current enclosure which is the size of an average living room.

Several professional partners are coming together to make this phase a reality, with Kenwood Fencing leading the charge, building the bulk of the enclosure.

The construction of the den house and log enrichment will be handled by a team of our wildlife facility crew who have been working with us for more than 25 years. After a tree fell on our existing bear enclosure this year, this incredibly skilled team helped us rebuild and enhance our enrichment in this enclosure. Even more recently in the same enclosure, they constructed a specialized den to replace the wooden den that could no longer withstand the strength of the growing bear cubs.

This brings us to the future phases of the APE development. To complete the facility, and make the largest impact we can, we still need additional funding.

We are now fundraising for the final phases of the project which include:

Phase 5 - Large Water Feature

Phase 6 - Build Mountain Lion Enclosure

Phase 7 - Isolation Area for Disease Control

Phase 8 - Fireproof Den House

Phase 9 - Perimeter Fence

Phase 5 - Large Water Feature is next on the horizon and we are hoping to begin construction as soon as possible. Dan and Todd Henrickson, who constructed the large pond and nursery pond in our Aquatic Mammal Enclosure, have agreed to build a water feature that will match the natural environment of the cubs we care for. 

Last year's bear cubs playing in their pool. This large pool was destroyed when a tree fell on the enclosure during the storms last winter. These cubs have since returned to the wild!

Over the past two years of observing the cubs interacting with the enrichment we’ve provided to them; we’ve learned just how important having access to water is. At least three times a day, we have observed the cubs on our cameras in their small water trough fishing, splashing, playing, and lounging about just as they would as cubs in the wild. Though the water trough is small, we believe this access to water has prevented them from becoming bored and exhibiting behaviors, like pacing, that would indicate stress due to being held in captivity. Like any young and vibrant mind, all creatures need to be stimulated mentally and physically to grow and become independent. In our new Apex Predator Enclosure, we need to build a water feature that would mimic water sources found in the wild. 

Phases 6 - Mountain Lion Enclosure will be a specialized portion of the project that suits the amazing skills a mountain lion has to jump up to 15 ft vertically and will prevent escapes.

Phase 7 - Isolation Area for Disease Control will create specialized enclosures to care for patients with potential diseases or life threatening injuries.

Phase 8 - Fire Proof Den House will house bears during emergencies when evacuation options are limited and will keep staff safe during assessment of bears in care for treatment and return to the wild.

Phase 9 - Perimeter Fencing will complete the APE enclosing all the rehabilitating animals in and unwelcomed guests out.

Any contribution that can help us get to our final goal is going to directly impact the lives of bears and mountain lions in need of care for years to come. With your help, we know this dream can become reality.

Donate Here

Meet Our Animal Lovers

in this APE Timeline Photo Journal

While the scope of work can be broken down into phases, writing it so succinctly doesn't paint a full picture of the countless hours and wonderful professional partnerships that have worked together to get to our groundbreaking. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we've put together a photo diary of some of our favorite moments in this process!

1st Staff APE Planning


All About Trees - First Trees Dropped


Hodgin and Sons - Climbing


APE Tree and Ground Work Before


Kenwood Fencing - Katie & Rick Review Plans


Kenwood Fencing - Doris & Rick Review Plans


Katie & Robert APE Planning Meeting


Robert Hard at Work - Thank you Ghilotti Bros


Hodgin & Sons Tree Falling


We're All in This Together


Executive Director Doris Duncan Very

Grateful to Ghilotti Bros


Beautiful Work with Robert


Ghilloti Bros Clearing Trees


Robert Heaton, an Angel from Ghilloti Bros


Staff Updates on APE Plans


Kenwood Fencing -

Rick & Staff Review APE Plans


CDFW, Kenwood Fencing, SCWR Staff APE Plans Meeting


Cat and Chipper Work


Staff Assessing Storm Damage


Hodgin & Sons Tree Care Remove Fallen Tree


Kenwood Fencing - Assessing Storm Damage


Hodgin & Sons Chipping Last of Brush Piles


General APE Cleanup


APE Water Lines Installed


Dream Team Breaking Ground on the

Apex Predator Enclosure


The Hendrickson Family Back to Help


Hodgin & Sons - The Crew Arrives


Ron Saurman Planning All Water and Electric Needs


The Hendrickson Family joins the Soiland Family

for the Excavating Plans


Community Spotlight

SCWR Interns Courtney Hernandez (left) and Ally Ostheimer (right providing care to a Barn Owl and Western Gray Squirrel.

With 138 patients in care, we are in full swing here at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue! Every day presents new circumstances and without our devoted volunteers and interns it would be impossible to care for each individual and their specific needs. Our enthusiastic interns Courtney and Ally have been hard at work all summer ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks. They both have been learning from our animal care team the skills required to keep a rehabilitation center running; from enclosure maintenance to executing treatment plans. Interns are the bridge between staff and volunteers, ensuring that each animal is attended to, and things are adjusted as necessary.

As we adapt to each patient’s needs, treatments are subject to change daily. This summer we have been adapting our feeding and diet preparation protocols to prioritize the wellbeing of volunteers by making these crucial tasks more efficient. By reducing ambiguity, we can save the time spent in the hot sun and get everyone home in time for dinner. Although this seems like a simple endeavor, we would not be successful without the hard work from all the dedicated volunteers and interns. Everyone here at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is enormously grateful for everyone who dedicates their time to keep our organization running. We couldn’t do it without you!

BOMP Corner

Fall Maintenance Season is Here!

Our 2023 Maintenance Season has begun! Reach out to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue to schedule your Fall Maintenance Visit today!

Annual barn owl box maintenance is by far the most important part of box ownership. Owlets that are raised in a nesting box do not leave the box until they are ready to fly, approximately 60 days after they hatch. During that time, they poop and regurgitate pellets inside their box, stomping it down over time until you are left with inches of solid waste build up. This makes the inside of the nesting box not only very dirty, but also much smaller. Since no housekeeping is performed by the owls, it is the box owner's responsibility to make sure next years owlets have a clean and spacious box to grow up in. That's where annual fall maintenance comes into play.

Maintenance is the practice of cleaning a barn owl box to prepare it for the next nesting season. It is also the perfect time of year to perform any repairs to the box itself. Owlets raised in nesting boxes that are not properly cleaned every year have an increased likelihood of injury, death by predation, or being kicked out of the box by a competitive sibling before they are ready. Annual maintenance also prolongs the life of your box. Maintenance should always occur after the nesting season has ended.

If you would like to schedule a fall maintenance visit, please reach out to [email protected] or call us at 707-992-0274. If you would like to learn more about maintenance services, click the link below to read our most recent article on these services.

Learn More

Animal Care Spotlight

A Healed Orphaned Coyote Finds a New Pack

One of the fantastic features of working at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is that you never know what the day will bring. While it is predictable that there will be injured and orphaned animals needing help, there is such a wonderful diversity of species that we have the privilege to provide care for, you never know what the next patient will be. Late on a Tuesday afternoon in June an orphaned coyote pup was found down and clearly very ill in Petaluma and brought to our center.


Dehydrated and muscle wasted, this pup was not only starving but also suffering from multiple abscesses on his head. This coyote pup may have been defending himself from some other animal resulting in tooth or nail punctures that left behind bacteria or could have been punctured with the plant awns known as foxtails, to have started this process. It takes several days, sometimes over a week, from the moment of injury until a clear abscess has formed.

Veterinary medicine requires a special kind of person, and one of the ways you know you have found the right profession is if you have a sincere appreciation when treating infected wounds, like this coyote’s abscesses. Thankfully, our Animal Care team is abundant with exceptional people who find joy in helping wildlife in need, no matter how seemingly unpleasant providing treatment may be to an outsider.

On intake, one of our veterinary technicians, Megan Brown-Herrera was not only up for the task, she also stayed late to provide essential initial care for this pup. This included shaving, cleaning, removing burrs and foxtails, then flushing out each of the coyote’s abscesses. This coyote also required providing fluid therapy and starting medications for bacteria, pain, and parasites. It is often a tightrope walk balancing a wild animal’s medical needs while also preventing over-stressing from the hands-on intervention. Megan’s extensive knowledge and experience helped provide this ill pup with exactly what he required to survive these many treatments.

We continued care the next day, as the young coyote was already more stable and vibrant, clearly benefiting from his initial treatments. This included removing dozens more burrs, over 50 ticks, and treating one final abscess that was now evident as the rest of the swelling was subsiding. In the days that followed this pup continued to respond remarkably with not only the abscesses resolving but his muscle mass, hydration, and behavior all normalizing. Within a couple weeks he was ready to join other coyote pups his age in an outside enclosure. I am thrilled to report he has been growing and developing normally and is now well on his way towards returning to the wild at the end of this summer. 

A look inside our coyote enclosure and this pups new pack!

Support Your Local Wildlife!

Donate Today!
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that relies on donations from the public to rehabilitate the 1,000+ animals we receive each year. We do not receive any government funding. Our annual operating budget is $1,220,000, which means it costs almost $3,342 per day to keep our doors open.  Any donation helps!
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