Tahoe Wildlife Care opens Outdoor Learning Center

Laney Griffo
The bald eagle, Em, and his handler do a presentation at the new Outdoor Learning Center.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care celebrated the opening of their Outdoor Learning Center on Friday, the first public component of their new $6 million campus.

LTWC has been rescuing, rehabbing and releasing orphaned and injured wild birds and animals since 1978. In 2015, they purchased a 27-acre property, allowing them to quadruple the space available to care for animals.

While LTWC is extremely proud of their facilities, because of health and safety concerns of the animals, the general public is not allowed inside. However, a good portion of staff and volunteers’ time is taken up each day fielding calls from the public and teaching them about living with wild animals.

So, the new Outdoor Learning Center will allow the public to interact with LWTC while keeping the animals inside safe and comfortable.

“Almost all the animals we get is because some person screwed up … but all of these animals deserve a chance to live in the wild,” said Bruce Richards, capital project manager for LTWC. “So, a key thing we need to do, that we haven’t been able to do until today, is to educate the public in how to handle wildlife.”

LTWC has several animals that can never been released, a Kestral whose wing was badly broken so he can’t fly long distances, another Kestral who was taken care by humans from a young age so she doesn’t have survival skills and a bald eagle, Em, who had one of his wings partially amputated. They also have a recent addition, a porcupine who came to them at a very young age and also has no natural instincts. In fact, he spends a lot of his day following staff around like a cat.

Those animals and their handlers will be used for presentations at the learning center, allowing the public to get a closer look at the impact humans can have on wildlife.

“People are more inclined to protect what they understand, so we are happy that visitors will have the unique opportunity to learn about and connect with local wildlife,” said Cory Ritchie, Tahoe Fund vice chair in a press release. “The work the team at LTWC does to rescue, rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild is well aligned with the Tahoe Fund’s mission.”

The Outdoor Learning Center consists of a stage, with a T.V. and P.A. system and bleachers, with a paved path from the parking lot. It was funded through a $30,000 contribution from Tahoe Fund donors, including $15,000 from the Mathman family and a matching donation from Tahoe Blue Vodka.

“It took 10 years of blood, sweat and tears and everything to make this beautiful facility happen and today we’re celebrating this very small piece of it,” said Amy Berry, CEO, Tahoe Fund. “At the Tahoe Fund, we’re just so happy to be a piece of a project like this. Our mission is to use the power of philanthropy to improve the Lake Tahoe environment for all to enjoy and when we think about ‘all to enjoy,’ we think about for the humans to enjoy but obviously we need to take care of our wildlife that we’re so lucky to get to live with.”

LTWC will offer seasonal “Wildlife Wednesdays,” educational talks at the Outdoor Learning Center beginning July 21. The free, hour-long presentations will be offered through September by advance reservation only and will feature a rotating schedule of topics and expert presentations. All will include information about what to do if you encounter a bear, and what to do if you come across an orphaned or injured wild animal. Space at each event will be limited and schedules and sign-ups will be available on the LTWC website.

July 21- Introduction to Tahoe Wildlife

July 28- Topic to be determined

Aug 4- Beavers presented by Sierra Wildlife Coalition

Aug 11- Mountain Lions

Aug 18- Coyotes

Aug. 25- What’s a Poorwill?

Although LTWC is excited about the learning center, they are also looking forward to future plans for the facility. They are currently about $4.5 million into a $6 million project and have seven of the planned 13 buildings completed. The next building planned will be a large hospital building, complete with an office and volunteer living space, since some animals need 24 hour care.

“Our office is currently in the water fowl building,” Richards said. “It’s great for ducks, not so great for humans.”

Still, as is, the facility is able to help thousands of wild animals each year. They currently have squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, coyotes, red tail hawks, and many other varieties of animals that will one day be released back into the wild.

Gallery caption: LTWC can serve thousands of animals each year. (Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

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