Wildlife Care opens its doors to public | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildlife Care opens its doors to public

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Hundreds of wild-eyed animal lovers — both young and old — wandered the grounds and clinic of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Sunday for the center’s annual open house.

Volunteers as young as 16 gave tours to offer a brief synopsis of the animals brought in and rehabilitated. The center now has three bobcats, three great-horned owls and a red-tail hawk, to name a few of its tenants.

Many people gathered around an enclosure holding the Meyers rehabilitation center’s newest addition — a 4-month-old, 26-pound orphan cub picked up at Northstar-at-Tahoe over a week ago.

But a river otter living in a complex built with a hot tub, horse trough with sliding tubes in between may have stolen the show that morning. The setup was designed by Cheryl Millham, who operates the center with her husband, Tom.

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Along with an occasional squeal from children, a few members of the BEAR League watched the Feather River critter play and gnaw away at a fish.

Sometimes the otter would drop the fish out of the tank and struggle to retrieve it.

“I wish I could hold it for her,” Fran Gerhardy said.

As the otter ate, it made a coughing sound.

“Oh, I hate it when that happens,” Pat Alameda of South Lake Tahoe said, believing the critter was choking on a bone. “I’m such an animal lover.”

She wasn’t alone.

Eight-month-old Nico Dellaripa perked up in the aviary when his father, Victor, introduced him to the hawk and an owl peeking around the corner at the passersby because he said the baby “loves birds.”

“He’s been doing that all day,” volunteer Aria Benham said of the owl.

A fawn feeding on grass in an open area played more peek-a-boo as it placed its eyes and nose up to holes in the fence as more visitors walked by.

“They’re fun to feed. They play with you,” Benham told a group of children. “And when they’re younger, you can feel their spots (on their coat).”

Kevin Balibrera also turned his visit into a family outing. His clan recognized the bandit face of a raccoon poking his head out in full view.

Hope, 8, and Page, 10, spotted one in their Herbert Avenue back yard four days ago.

“It kind of startled us. It was standing right there at the slider (door),” their mother, Patty, said.

“We thought it looked hungry, but we didn’t feed it because we thought it would keep coming back and depending on us,” Kevin said.

He said the family has supplied animals to the wildlife care center, counting at least eight occasions. The most recent involved a baby jay two weeks ago.

“That’s why we donate to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. We know what they do out here,” he said.

It’s the fifth year the facility has opened its gate to current and prospective donors.

“The reason is mainly for the people who contribute to us to see where their money is going,” Tom Millham said.

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