A few months ago I found an injured, small, barely larger than a softball, brown feathered owl in the woods out in Jewell, OR. My puppy had alerted me to its presence and I calmly reacted not knowing quite exactly what to do!
After a few texts to friends and a prompt Google search: Injured Baby Owl, I was led to the website of the North Coast Wildlife Center out in Olney, OR. I called the hotline to get directions on how to help the owl. “Bring it in,” they said. And so went my first journey to the refuge center.
Recently, I got to meet and sit down with Joshua Saranpaa the Wildlife Refuge’s Executive Director. Young in stature, but deep with wisdom and knowledge, Saranpaa has been a part of the center for the last 10 years. He started volunteering back when he was in high school and has just grown in ranks ever since.
Saranpaa wanted to be a Wildlife Biologist and so volunteering at the Wildlife Center fit directly in line with his goals. It gave him a more hands-on experience with wildlife as he “wants to contribute to the bigger conservation issues” that are present in our day and age.
We walked throughout the wildlife sanctuary seeing all the different enclosures housing rehabbed animals. A large female bald eagle, with a broken wing, took my breath away. Saranpaa described her surgery, they fixed the wing by putting three to four pins in it, then during rehab those broke, so she had to undergo surgery again, and now the wing is mending again. Standing nearly 10 feet away, knowing her backstory, and watching her take flight despite the healing wing, was a majestic experience.
It is the help of the contributors at North Coast Wildlife and Refuge that make moments like this possible. People that care for wild animals. People that know exactly what to do when one finds an injured, lost, scared bird or animal. As the Bald Eagle flew overhead in her containment one wing slightly trailed lower than the other. Her injury was visible, and yet her resilience was palpable. She now was able to fly!
As Saranpaa explained to me during our tour, late owner Sharnelle Fee purchased the property of 105 acres in 1997. There was a single wide trailer which they turned into the wildlife hospital, a house that became her home, and a barn that became an enclosure for the rehabbing wildlife.
The North Coast Wildlife Refuge is in its 20th year of operation. They are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and rely heavily on donations. This coming October 2018 they’ll be hosting The Founder’s Dinner at the Seaside Convention Center.
Every year the Wildlife Refuge has continued to grow. Now operating with two full-time employees, two part-time employees, it’s important to understand that it’s really the volunteers and the donators who drive this thing.
There are plans in the works to start hosting educational summer camps for kids on the 105 acres by Summer 2019. Until then the Wildlife Refuge Center helps educate the kids in Clatsop County by going to classes at local schools and also providing opportunities for field trips.
During my visit, a wild Osprey was brought in with a fishing hook sunk into its foot, and the line wound all around its body. Rehabilitation Coordinator Pauline Baker and Saranpaa allowed me to watch the intake. The Osprey’s head was covered to reduce the trauma as Baker and Saranpaa worked together to gently hold the bird down, get the embedded hook out of its foot, and unwind the line. A part of me wished there were words I could say or something I could contribute to help the Osprey remain calm. It was an interesting experience where I felt like sometimes our wildness as beings or inability to communicate with one another actually causes more distress when something or someone is trying to help us.
Seeing an injured wild animal up close and personal certainly pulls on the heartstrings. There is such a lack of communication it is hard to feel any sort of calm, that was my experience with the Screech Owl that I found in Jewel. But, once I arrived on site with the professionals at the refuge center I felt like not only was the owl being triaged but so was I. Their expertise and patience in handling the matter made my involvement feel so much better. There really was nothing more that I could have done to save the owl, but I followed through on all the steps that I could.
For more information about the Wildlife Center check out CoastWildlife.org. Send mail to: PO Box 1232, Astoria, OR 97103
And, as always, if you find an injured wild animal, Call the Rescue Line for Help: 503-338-0331