CAPE NEDDICK, Maine People looked out their windows during a recent downpour, and noticed something strange: small, penguin-like creatures roaming around their properties.
Curious and worried, some of them called the Center for Wildlife at Cape Neddick in York. It turned out that those strange birds were dovekies, a pelagic species known to breed in the Arctic and far from the coast and far from land. Strong winds on Monday’s storm forced the dovekeys to the ground.
They were great, Kristen Lamb, the center’s executive director, said in an interview after the storm. They live on the coast, mostly in the sea, and they never come on land. People notice them in their yards or in their parking lots, and they know something is wrong.
The center took in 15 of the little dovekies that day, Lamb said.
That’s a day in the life of the Center for Wildlife, which in December began the third phase of its major expansion at 375 Mountain Road.
The Center for Wildlife purchased 8.42 acres in 2016 at the base of Mount Agamenticus alongside 16,000 acres of conservation land and trails.
According to Lamb, the final phase, expected to be completed by the summer of 2025, includes the construction of dozens of state-of-the-art outdoor wildlife enclosures to replace the old, existing York Water Districts property.
For the first phase, which began in 2018, crews built a new, larger main building to run operations, house interns, and house a room where visitors can visit the turtles. , snakes, and other animals rescued by the organization.
The second phase resulted in the construction of a new village for the center’s wildlife ambassadors, the hawks, owls, falcons, porcupines and other permanent residents on-site due to the injuries they suffered.
Although the first two phases have been completed, the center is now far from its origin. In 1986, the center operated out of sheds and a donated ranch house on water district property. The organization has remained there for 37 years, according to Lamb. Then, three years ago, the big step began.
The Restore Our Nature Campaign centers on aiming to raise $650,000 to achieve the full, three-phase vision, Lamb said. Thanks to donors, the organization has raised almost $185,000, enough to accomplish everything the project has done so far.
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Why is the Center for Wildlife pushing for expansion?
According to Lamb, the transition to the now larger operation in 2020 happened at the right time. The need and demands for services are beyond what the organization was able to do in its original area. The organization has reached a point where it must decide to scale back or initiate a partial suspension of operations. The board of directors chose to expand.
The center is definitely facing a tipping point, Lamb said. We knew we needed a big expansion.
There is another reason why the expansion began at the right time, according to Lamb: a highly pathogenic avian flu occurred just one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Center for Wildlife could not have helped 1,200 birds. and 1,000 mammals, reptiles and amphibians treated annually.
In a recent press release, Mari ONeil, the chair of the organizations board, expressed gratitude to the donors who got the expansion project to where it is today.
We are very grateful to all the wonderful donors who helped us reach where we are today, said ONeil. As we look forward to limitless possibilities for our center and community, we aim to expand our reach and encourage people of all ages to appreciate the importance of nature and wildlife.
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What is included in the last phase of the expansion?
In addition to building new enclosures, phase 3 of the project also includes the organization of the complete restoration of its former location to its natural habitat.
Existing enclosures and, once completed, new and improved ones are the last stop that injured or orphaned wildlife make before returning to the wild. The enclosures are designed to mimic the animals’ natural habitat in the final stages of their rehabilitation.
Just as people need to rebuild muscles, wake up digestive systems, or recover in a safe environment from fractures, head or eye trauma, or other medical issues, the wild animals should too, says Lamb.
Most of the animals are brought to the center by residents and visitors who happen upon them after an accident or after determining that they are not where they should be and need care, according to Lamb. One year, movie actor Christian Slater even brought an injured creature to the center while visiting the state.
Those animals are more connected to the well-being of people than people realize, said Lamb. He added that such connections are associated with significant changes and challenges such as extreme weather, emergent diseases, and land development.
As we experience these challenges, we are joined by wildlife that balances insect populations, brings us great joy and wonder, plants our trees, and prevents disease, Lamb said. Wildlife’s connection to our own well-being is often invisible, overlooked or neglected, but they exist every day, enhancing our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
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The Center for Wildlife cares for more than 78,000 animals
The Center for Wildlife has cared for more than 78,000 animals, covering 190 different species, since opening in 1986.
Improvements in recent years have allowed the organization to achieve many goals, including expanding diagnostic equipment to improve animal care as well as adding classrooms, space of the conference and an auditorium. They also welcome students for field trips that offer hands-on exhibits.
Financially, the center has seen many changes in recent years. In 2014, for example, the entire operating budget of the organization stood at about $350,000. Today, the annual budget is at $800,000, combined with raising $4 million and debt management of $2 million a year.
We are proud to have overcome historical shortcomings on the fundraising and administrative side of our operations, said Lambert. Despite political turmoil, trade wars, a global pandemic, as well as a field that receives only 1% of philanthropic giving each year, we have been able to grow our operations and remain open every day while completed our new $6.5 million facility.
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