A barred owl is shown at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick. Last year, the public brought 2,400 injured and orphaned wild animals to the Center for Wildlife including over 40 barred owls. SUBMITTED PHOTO

CAPE NEDDICK — Ground was broken in late March for a much larger Center for Wildlife facility serving thousands of injured wild animals in New England.

For more than 30 years, the Center for Wildlife has located at the base of Mount Agamenticus. During those three decades, the center has only undertaken one indoor expansion, in 1995 it moved from a trailer to a ranch house that had been donated to the organization.

But through the years, development and a changing climate have increased demand for center services significantly.

“In 1995 we treated about 500 patients, and had no formal internship, environmental education, or research programming. This past year we treated 2,400 injured wild animals, hosted 30 interns and apprentices from across the country and presented 375 environmental education programs in the community,” said Center for Wildlife Executive Director Kristen Lamb. “And, demand keeps going up. If we weren’t expanding now, we would sadly need to look at reducing services for wildlife and our community, something we never want to do.”

The Center for Wildlife is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission of building a sustainable future for wildlife in the community through medical treatment, rehabilitation, educational outreach, research, and conservation activities. It focuses on strengthening regional capacity to rescue, rehabilitate, and return injured animals to the wild, providing learning opportunities and expanding community outreach programs to teach and inspire people of all ages to help protect local wildlife, and achieving long-term financial and ecological sustainability.

Founded in 1986, the Center for Wildlife has an annual operating budget of $475,000. It has seven board members, seven year-round staff members, three seasonal staff members, and close to 100 volunteers.

The center collaborates with regional universities and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to prepare for and address natural disasters and zoonotic diseases. The Center for Wildlife’s Wildlife Assistance Hotline also fields more than 12,000 calls each year, providing wild animal guidance to callers from all over New England. For the most part, the center treats birds, small mammals and some reptiles like turtles and snakes.

According to Lamb, space has been a pressing issue for the center and has started to hinder the organization’s ability to serve wildlife and the public.

She said that the center’s ranch house rests on standing water requiring expensive HEPA filters to run in each room 24 hours a day to keep air quality safe for patients and staff.

Lamb said that this past winter, the “Mammal” and “Reptile” Rooms have been full.

“Typically, patient volume triples during nesting season. Also, lack of space means the Center has had to turn away much needed donations of X-ray machines and incubators from local hospitals and vet clinics,” she said.  “With no indoor classroom space, the Education program has been forced to cancel programming due to weather.”

About 100 requests for field trips and earned income events, representing about $45,000 in program fees, have been turned away because of the lack of appropriate space just in 2019 alone.

There is no state or federal funding available for the medical treatment of wild animals, Lamb said. And since 2014, the Center for Wildlife has been working on not only keeping up with demand and establishing themselves as a leader in conservation medicine and environmental education, but also laying the groundwork for a capital campaign to fund a facilities expansion.

In 2016, through a mini-campaign, 8.5 acres of land adjacent to the current property and also abutting the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region’s 16,000 acres of conservation land was purchased. Subsequently, a partnership with McHenry Architecture, Jewett Construction, and Ambit Engineering helped create plans for a state-of-the-art wildlife clinic and nature center, complete with an indoor auditorium, additional classroom space and intern housing.

“Our new campus will be a place where community members can slow down and connect with the wildlife, and learn about how to steward the land in their own towns and backyards,” Lamb said. “We see hosting regular ‘Yoga with Falcons’ in our Mindfulness Pavilion, ‘Native Gardening 101’ in our Pollinator Gardens, and of course offering advanced medical treatment for our patients in our expanded clinic.”

To date the Center for Wildlife has raised $2.4 million in a capital campaign while working toward a $4.5 million project through early and lead gifts.

“As in most projects of this magnitude, the first few months are the most crucial requiring the largest outlay of budget (about $1 million) and the Center has a goal of raising $500,000 by June 1,” Lamb said.

Anyone interested in contributing to the capital campaign with a major gift of $5,000 to $100,000 is asked to contact Alicia Fereday, Center for Wildlife Development Director at [email protected] or by calling 361-1400, ext. 107.

Major gifts can also be made through a dynamic crowdfunding site (CauseVox) that highlights testimonials from other donors, as well as a blog with photo and video construction updates, Lamb said.

The Center for Wildlife is located at 385 Mountain Road in Cape Neddick.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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