The following article originally appeared in the Fairfield Daily Republic on Feb. 9, 2017
By Ian Thompson
SUISUN CITY — The caller described the disoriented animal she saw walking down Main Street in Vacaville in the summer of 2016 initially as a baby raccoon.
What turned out to be a young, haggard ring-tailed cat had a fire-singed tail from the wildfire that had forced it out of the hills west of town.
Suisun Wildlife Center fed and nursed the emaciated member of the raccoon family back to health and released him back to the wild within a few weeks.
To show its appreciation, the animal ruffed its fur and hissed in indignation before disappearing into the night.
The ring-tailed cat was one of more than 16,000 birds, mammals and reptiles that the center and its volunteers have nursed back to health in the 40 years since it opened its doors in a small rented house on Delaware Street.
The center will celebrate four decades of helping injured wild animals and educating local youth about the environment – 30 of those years from its home in Suisun City – from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at its home at 1171 Kellogg St. Refreshments will be served, native wildlife will be on hand and tours will be offered of the facility.
The event is sponsored by Garton Tractor Inc.
“Our goal has been to get people to feel this is their wildlife center and to show people the value of wildlife,” said Monique Liquori, executive director of the Suisun Marsh Natural History Association.
That has included its education program to teach children and the public about native wildlife rescue and the Suisun Marsh.
The center’s volunteers are frequent visitors to local schools with their cadre of non-releasable raptors, mammals and reptiles.
An estimated 300,000 people have taken part in the center’s education program, not counting the center’s thousands of visitors.
It has been kept open by an ever-changing cadre of volunteers who spend their free time caring for animals and supporters, such as Julie Williamson, who brings in food and supplies for the animals.
“It love it because people should remember the animals,” Williamson said.
The Suisun Wildlife Center has come a long way from that small Delaware Street house that was lent to the association in 1976 in return for their running a humane trapping program, Liquori said. An aviary was built in the garage and water birds swam in the house’s bathtub.
Occasionally, the termites living in the walls would swarm out in a winged horde and fill the house, Liquori said.
It was a step up from the first years where volunteers did almost all of their work and animal care at home.
The association started searching for and found a permanent home at the end of Kellogg Street next to the Peytonia Slough in 1983.
Armed with grant money from the Coastal Conservancy and the state Department of Fish and Game, work on their present home started 1986. Volunteers stretched funds by getting the sheet rock donated and hanging it themselves.
A large bird aviary was the first of more than 20 rehabilitation enclosures and 10 display enclosures for non-releasable animals that center volunteers would build.
Sool, a Golden Eagle who could not be released due to a wing injury, is one of the oldest permanent animal guests in the aviary, having called the center home for two decades.
“We know he can live to 50 years,” Liquori said of how long Sool may stick around.
More short-term guests have included Tom the turkey, who wandered onto the center grounds a few years ago and stayed there, acting like the center’s security guard, checking out visitors, until he left last year of his own accord.
The center was expanded in 2013 with the addition of the education wing with funds from a California Fish and Wildlife grant and volunteer help from the Shell Oil Refinery in Martinez and carpenters from Travis Air Force Base.
It has seen everything from tick-riddled, emaciated badgers to floods of songbirds and possums each spring.
“Every year, there is something that we get a lot of,” Liquori said of the springtime rise in injured animals that come through the doors.
For more information about the Suisun Wildlife Center, if you find a sick or injured wild animal, how to volunteer or support, call 429-HAWK or go to www.suisunwildlife.org.