Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care open house provides a snapshot of animal activity |

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care open house provides a snapshot of animal activity

Jack Barnwell
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care co-founder Tom Millham explains the purpose of the display screens showing the river otter habitat during the nonprofit's annual open house on Sunday. The display screens allowed visitors to view the wildlife under care there while reducing the risk of increased human contact.
Jack Barnwell | Tahoe Daily Tribune

Bears, foxes and owls, oh my.

That’s the sneak peak that visitors got Sunday during the annual Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care open house on Cherry Hills Circle.

Hundreds turned out, with waiting lists for tour groups led by volunteers developing within the first hour of the event’s start.

Most of the animals were screened from public sight but visible on high-definition screens outside of the wildlife enclosures.

According to Tom Millham, secretary-treasurer and co-founder of LTWC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife have strict permit guidelines for animal enclosures. LTWC’s techniques for caring for injured or orphaned animals include limiting contact to ensure they don’t become dependent or imprinted on people.

The television monitors are new to the open house.

“When we didn’t have the blackout, people couldn’t see that well inside,” Millham said. “With the cameras they can get a better view, which makes it better to watch.”

Out front, visitors had a chance to observe volunteer-produced videos of various activities and peruse the conceptual designs for LTWC’s new facility on Al Tahoe Boulevard. The nonprofit broke ground in July on the new facility at a 27-acre site. LTWC expects to open the new facility in 2017.

Two rambunctious, orphaned bear cubs received a lot of attention Sunday. When they first arrived at LTWC from Chico, Calif., they weighed approximately 18 pounds each but have been nursed back to health.

River otters, merganser ducks, horned owls, osprey, red-tailed hawks, squirrels and raccoons were also among the sights at the wildlife center. Great horned owls were also visible within their netted confines.

Millham said the merganser ducks, which LTWC has been raising, will likely be released into the wild this week.

One of the more rare patients in LTWC’s care is a juvenile gray fox, brought in from Quincy, Calif., after a car killed its mother.

“We’ve probably had only three here in our 37-year history,” Millham said.

Inside the upstairs nook of the house that serves as LTWC’s headquarters, people got a chance to view animals through a live feed used by staff and volunteers to follow the progress of the critters.

The area also acts as surgery and a “hot room,” a place where small or baby animals in critical care are kept until they can be transitioned to one of the larger facilities.

Currently, the hot room contains a rehabilitating grouse, a grown squirrel and three orphaned infant squirrels.

Volunteer Ruth Ellen, like Millham, said the cameras are an integral part to the successful rehabilitation of animals.

“It helps with rehabilitating the animals and minimizes the interaction with people so they can be more successful in returning to the wild,” Ellen said.

Ellen added that once LTWC’s new facilities are constructed and brought online, the ability to accommodate animals will be greatly increased.

“It will be great for them (LTWC) to have an area bigger than this nook to address animals’ injuries,” Ellen said of the surgery area.

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