If making merry in the Old Pueblo means making sure to acknowledge our native Sonoran Desert wildlife and our four-legged animal companions, opportunity abounds this holiday season.
"One of the reasons people choose to live in Tucson is because of the amazing habitat, and it is necessary for people and animals to cohabitate. We have so many species of wild animals, and sometimes the people and animals collide and the animals need our help and that is where we come in," said Sheila Chonis, development director of the Tucson Wildlife Center.
The nonprofit has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured and orphaned wild animals throughout Southern Arizona since 2000.
In the last year the organization helped almost 800 large birds and mammals, including eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, coyotes and javelina. Right now the center houses 68 animals, including several resident animals such as foster bobcats, coyotes and javelinas that act as surrogate parents to rescued babies who have been injured or orphaned.
The center also works with other rehab centers to place smaller birds and animals, and it offers a 24/7 Rescue Hotline (290-WILD or 9453) that helps the public with injured or sick wildlife.
"We have volunteers manning the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with rehabbers that will go out and rescue animals. We don't expect the public to engage in that dangerous activity," Chonis said.
The organization's newest endeavor is the Sam Goldman Wildlife Hospital, a $1.5 million facility that will include a surgery center and rehabilitation space at 13275 E. Speedway.
Currently under construction, the 4,000-square-foot facility will also provide administrative offices and live-in veterinarian quarters and is slated for completion in the summer.
"The new hospital will give us the state-of-the-art facility that we need. We hope to become a teaching hospital with local veterinarians and the University of Arizona," Chonis said.
The new facility will continue to expand the vision and reach of the center, which has treated animals with diverse conditions ranging from burns in fires and broken wings or limbs resulting from accidents in the wild to injuries sustained when animals are hit by cars or fly into windows.
One of the more unusual cases this year is a golden eagle found in Willcox that was grounded, unable to hunt and near death. It has been receiving treatment for suspected lead poisoning at the center for the past month and is expected to be released back into the wild next year.
"He is majestic and gorgeous and it's not very often that you have the opportunity to see a bird like that. It is just so important we rescue and rehabilitate these birds and animals and get them back into their natural, wild habitat," Chonis said.
How You Can Help animals in need
• So far this year the Tucson Wildlife Center has rescued, treated, rehabilitated and released almost 800 birds and mammals including eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, coyotes and javelina.
More than 70 volunteers work at the center, and donations are needed to pay for operating costs at the nonprofit organization. The public can also "adopt" the care of an animal for $75 to $100 annually or schedule monthly donations to foster orphans before they're released into the wild.
Donations to the Sam Goldman Wildlife Hospital currently under construction can be made online at tucsonwildlife.com or sent to: Tucson Wildlife Center, P.O. Box 18320, Tucson, AZ 85731.
The organization is also holding a fundraiser, Rescue, Rehab, Release ... Rejoice! at 5 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Mountain Oyster Club, 6400 E. El Dorado Circle. The benefit will include educational animals, a video by Marcus DeLeon, dinner and live and silent auctions. Tickets are $150 per person. For more information, go to tucsonwildlife.com; to purchase a ticket, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 290-9453.
• Hope Animal Shelter is on a mission to foster animal respect and end euthanasia by providing a safe haven for unwanted animals. The nonprofit, no-kill haven currently houses 75 cats and dogs and needs donations of cleaning supplies, office supplies, blankets, towels, bath mats, collapsible dog crates, carpeted cat condos, cat carriers and Authority brand cat and dog food.
Monthly or one-time pet sponsorships for resident animals are also available. Donations can be made online at hopeanimalshelter.net or sent to 2011 E. 12th St., Tucson, AZ 85719. For more information call 792-9200.
• Pawsitively Cats is Tucson's largest cage-free, no-kill cat shelter. It provides temporary and permanent homes for about 400 adoptable and special needs felines. For information about adopting a cat, or to give a gift to animal lovers (who'll receive a certificate notifying them you've made a donation in their name) or provide a monthly pet sponsorship, go to pawsitivelycats.org or call 289-2747.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com