“Kaiu” the coyote would likely have died years ago if it were not for the love and care he receives at the Suisun Wildlife Center.
“Kaiu” is one of about a dozen wild animals that call the wildlife center in Suisun City home. Like all the other permanent residents of this facility, “Kaiu” would likely not survive very long if he were re-released into the wild. The coyote, believed to have been born around March of 2008, was somehow separated from his pack when he was about 2 months old. He was hit by a car and lost an eye. He also had other serious medical issues that combined to make it impossible for him to be re-released. He was hospitalized and cared for at another wildlife center for several months before he was moved to Suisun in January of 2009, where he has remained ever since.
“Kaiu” lives in the back area of the Suisun Wildlife Center, along with other residents that include “Bandit” a blind raccoon, “Milo” the screech owl, “Sool” the golden eagle, “Bob” the American kestrel, “Guinevere” the great horned owl and “Rita” and “Rusty,” the red-tailed hawks. The wildlife center is open daily and visitors of all ages are welcome to walk the grounds and meet these animals that all have their own stories to tell.
“If you take the time to quietly observe the animals and think about their history and what they have been through, each animal is very impressive,” said Patricia, who has volunteered at the center for over a year now.
Every year, the Suisun Valley Wildlife Center, located adjacent to the 84,000-acre Suisun Marsh, cares for over 1,000 birds and other wild animals. The center has an animal hospital set up in the back of the main building, where trained volunteers devote countless hours to rehabilitating them for release back into the wild. All the animals come to the center with some sort of injury, most often from being hit by a car or following a brutal encounter with another animal like a cat.
“The goal at the Suisun Wildlife Center is to re-release as many animals as possible, said Kris Reiger, the wildlife care director. “We want to give them a second chance at what they are meant to do,” she said. “We give them that second chance and then the rest is up to them.”
But if injuries or health issues prevent that from happening, the animal could then become a permanent resident at the facility, where they not only receive care from the trained volunteer handlers, but also educate families, youth groups, schools, service clubs and other visitors.
“It provides an opportunity for people to get an up-close look at these animals,” Reiger said. “The residents that are here we use for education and we have permits from Fish and Wildlife that allow us to do that. The great thing about California is just about every county in the state has a place like this. It’s nice because when we get an animal that is injured and can’t be re-released, there is this network out there that allows us to transfer them to other places.”
Most of the wildlife center’s permanent residents have been there for a number of years. “Sool”, the golden eagle, holds the title as longest resident. He has lived at the Suisun Wildlife Center since January of 1996 after suffering a severe injury to his left wing, possibly from being hit by a car.
The wildlife center opened in 1987 and is operated through the non-profit Suisun Marsh Natural History Association, which was incorporated in 1977. Since its opening, over 200 species of birds, mammals and reptiles have been treated and over 30,000 birds and animals have been released back to the wild. Visitors from Solano County and beyond come to the center throughout the year. The wildlife center is very popular with area schools. Many classes visit and the trained handlers also conduct assemblies showcasing their animals. Over 12,000 children and adults participate in the center’s education program every year. Families and individuals are also welcome to visit on their own time and the center has several annual events, like the Baby Animal Shower in the spring, the Halloween Howl in October and the Holiday Open House in November, that are very popular.
Those who live in the area are also welcome to become volunteers. All volunteers must go through extensive training before they are allowed to become animal handlers but there is still a lot to do behind the scenes.
“We are a little thin on volunteers right now,” Reiger said. “We’re almost to summer and the baby season. We are always looking for more.”
The Suisun Wildlife Center, located at 1171 Kellogg Street in Suisun, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact the center at 707-429-HAWK (4295) or visit www.suisunwildlife.org.