Animal lovers flock to wildlife open house |

Animal lovers flock to wildlife open house

Susan Wood

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Children carefully pet Marvin the porcupine at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center's open house Sunday.

There’s more to animal attraction than meets the human eye.

People have an almost surreal connection to our furry friends on the planet – domestic and wild.

South Lake Tahoe provides no exception – given Sunday’s huge turnout at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center’s open house. As of 1:15 p.m., 800 people had entered the facility, board members and volunteers reported.

Many visitors went upstairs to get a full-on view of a rehabilitated porcupine that BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant calls Marvin.

Marvin didn’t seem the least bit intimated by the crowd – even by some touching his coarse hair and sharp spines known to be used as defense.

Bryant was surprised by the magnitude of the public’s interest.

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“They’re not usually cute and cuddly, but the kids seem to appreciate him,” she said.

Madison Vigoletti, 6, has a Great Dane named Ebony at her Tahoe home, but it was the hog that captured her attention this past weekend.

“I’ve never seen a porcupine,” she belted out.

To some extent, her mother, Tausha Thomas, was amazed by her daughter’s fascination.

But she understands that the strong connection people have with animals is so prominent, it’s become the fodder in cartoons and the subject of research on how being around them can reduce stress.

Patty Thibault cites a spiritual connection between man and beast that has affected her personally.

When the South Lake Tahoe woman was in labor with her daughter Cailin Stephensen, 9, a great horned owl landed on a tree outside her window. On the same night, one descended on the deck of her godfather’s Arizona home.

The event created a lasting memory for her, she said, while peering into the bobcat cage.

Self-identified cat lovers, Brad and Sarah Grove of the Bay Area, said they like to watch wild animals because they tell them something about their domestic creatures at home. The couple has two cats, Sam and Spike.

“What I appreciate is how complex their personalities are,” he said.

Wildlife Care volunteer Mary Hardy said animal behavior has evolved into a subject of keen interest to spectators.

“People want to live where they can learn more about them,” she said, while giving one of several tours the center put on Sunday.

And in Tahoe, the encounters happen every day.

Across the globe, scientists interpret animal communication, publishing the work on Web sites such as

Many have heard dolphins can combine symbols to be trained to understand words. Then, there’s the border collie able to interpret 200 words. And one need only own a pet to know there’s communication between humans and animals.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at