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New Mexico Wildlife Center Saves Thousands of Wild Animals Over Past Two Decades

For the past 20 years, the New Mexico Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has taken in numerous injured animals, cared for them, and released them back into the wild after recovery. VOA's Joseph Mok produced the following story about the animals undergoing rehabilitation and some of those who care for them.

Pam Everson founded the New Mexico Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in 1986, but it was strictly for hawks, eagles and other birds of prey. She soon realized she had to expand the center to take care of other kinds of wild animals injured by vehicles on the road, shot by poachers, poisoned, or even electrocuted. "Originally it was done at my house, and I would have three or four animals a year. Then it became 60 animals a year, and then 600 a year. Now it's about 2400 animals a year. So it was very apparent that we needed a full facility to take care of everybody who is coming in to us and to have the best rehabilitation facility to get these guys back into the wild."

Since its inception, the center has returned 55 percent of its patients to the wild -- which is almost 20 percent higher than the national average. Five staff members and 140 volunteers make it possible for the center to rehabilitate almost 1,500 animals a year.

Pam Everson says all the center's funding comes from private foundations and individual donations. "I can tell you we are not funded, we are not funded on a regular basis by anyone. We are not funded by the federal government. We are not funded by the state government. Santa Fe County has 600 not-for-profit organizations, which is very unusual given the population size we have here, those 600 not-for-profit organizations are all dipping into the same pot."

Linda McGee, one of the center's volunteers, is holding a Harris hawk that suffered wing damage. She says these kinds of hawks can play a useful role. "They used a Harris hawk in New York City to cut down pigeon population about two years ago. Did great, just flew around and scared everybody off, and that was the job. They named it Starbuck. And one day Starbuck got hold of a Chihuahua. That was the end of the contract in New York City and central park."

Justin Cooke is the intensive care supervisor at the center. Here he wraps up a wounded bird as he prepares to give it an injection of electrolytes and minerals. Cooke believes the bird suffered dehydration during the winter. Cook is also treating an injured barn owl. "Since he's an owl, he sleeps during the day. I just woke him up. He wasn't ready to be woken up. He's a barn owl. He doesn't perch much. That's the reason I set up this little box in front of him. He's not gonna want to stand on a perch. He wants to hide. So it's a little bit of knowing how they react to certain situation and how they feel a certain thing. You just have to play with that."

The animals that are too seriously injured or too accustomed to people to go back to the wild stay on as ambassadors of sorts. There are more than twenty such animals at the center.

But for those fortunate enough to recover from their injuries and complete their rehabilitation, there is this day of joy to embrace nature again.