Organization has heart for the wild

Community education important part of mission, rehabilitator says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn-based organization founded in 1985 has rescued, rehabilitated and released thousands of wild animals. Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, a nonprofit organization with 45 volunteers, rescued 1,300 animals last year alone, according to Auburn resident Kari Freidig, a rehabilitator specializing in raptors. The organization works with 100 species of animals including birds such as robins, woodpeckers, Canada geese, swallows, pigeons and more. The group also rescues raptors like barn owls, red-shouldered hawks and bald eagles. Mammals like jackrabbits, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes also make up part of its rescued population. The group is licensed with the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and all volunteers receive mandatory training on how to handle and rehabilitate animals. Gold Country Wildlife Rescue relies on community donations, and animal care can range in cost from $25 up to several hundred dollars. “Some of the animals need X-rays, blood tests, sometimes surgery,” Freidig said. “Medicines are a big expense. Caging, housing are some of the biggest expenses we have.” In 2010 the organization opened an intake center in Loomis with a goal of making it easier for people to drop off rescued animals. The center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May through August. Rehabilitators in the group, such as Freidig, keep the animals in facilities at their homes while they heal and before they are released back into the wild. “The animal will come home with us,” Freidig said. “We will help it recuperate. We are very careful to make sure these animals stay wild.” To do this, rehabilitators make sure the animals aren’t treated like pets and allowed to get used to humans or domestic animals, Freidig said. Auburn resident Char Bachwansky, secretary and mammal medical adviser for the organization, said a particular summer 2010 rescue stands out in her mind. “I got a call from the Placer County SPCA,” Bachwansky said. “They were dropping off this beaver that was walking across Highway 49. This woman had stopped and was blocking traffic because no one was stopping for (the beaver).” The beaver had been displaced from his nearby habitat. “He had a lot of road rash on him,” Bachwansky said. Bachwansky moved her dog out of its kennel to give the beaver a place to rest before returning him to another nearby pond. “He is still doing well, because he has got a house there now,” she said. Freidig said she recently got called to rescue a bald eagle from a rice field in Lincoln. The eagle had been badly electrocuted. “The eagle had such severe wounds, his bone was exposed,” Freidig said. “His flesh was falling off his wings and he was euthanized.” Freidig said the positive note about the incident was that PG&E is now required to make that utility pole raptor safe, so that there are no level surfaces for birds to land on the places where the wires meet the actual pole. A big part of the organization’s work is community education, and members give presentations at schools and to other local groups, according to Freidig. Gold Country Wildlife Rescue also offers monthly classes such as rehabbing opossums, squirrel rehabilitation, avian stabilization, wound management and more, according to Shingle Springs resident Nancy Barbachano, training coordinator and avian medical adviser for the organization. Classes are $10 each, and a schedule can be found on the group’s website. Freidig said the organization also tries to teach community members that not all animals need help, like a fawn, which will sometimes be separated from its mother for extended periods of time while the mother grazes. The group also recommends pruning trees in the fall instead of the spring so there are no occupants to displace. “A fairly good percentage of the baby birds we get are because of pruning,” said John Kirkpatrick, president of the organization. Freidig said it’s also a good idea to rustle burn piles with a broom handle before setting them on fire, because the piles make good habitats to some creatures. Kirkpatrick said citizens should also know it’s OK to put a baby bird back in its nest if it falls out. “A lot of people are under the impression that if you touch (the baby) a bird won’t deal with it,” he said. “That’s totally false.” Barbachano said working with wild animals has been extremely meaningful to her. “I have been rehabbing for about a dozen years, and it is absolutely the most rewarding thing, because there is nothing like taking a little teeny tiny baby, or one that has been injured, and releasing them back into the wild,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ Gold Country Wildlife Rescue What: A nonprofit volunteer organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases wild animals in the Auburn area. Website: Information or to report an injured wild animal: Call (530) 885-0862 To donate: Send donations to Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, P.O. Box 4162, Auburn, CA 95604-4162 For more information on training classes: E-mail Nancy Barbachano at