Walk on the Wild Side

Category: Gary's Column, Spring 2019, Wild About Wildlife 272 0
Project Wildlife’s Animal Ambassadors play an important role in educating and connecting people to animals in the wild. Here, Wildlife Education Specialist Carly Padilla poses with Animal Ambassador Soyala the great horned owl at scenic Kate Sessions Park in Pacific Beach. Photo by Paul Body.

There are two animals I identify with most: the dog

(obviously!) and the great horned owl. As a kid, I was obsessed with Spooky the Owl, mascot for the Boston Museum of Science—this owl became the focus of my life. Ever since San Diego Humane Society and Project Wildlife joined forces five years ago, I’ve had the best of both worlds, pets and wild animals alike. Project Wildlife rehabs and, when possible, releases over 12,000 animals each year, including my beloved owls. And for me, there’s nothing like seeing an owl released—it’s magnificent.

This issue of San Diego Pets is all about Project Wildlife and the great, often thankless work they do. Rescuing squirrels and opossums isn’t glamorous, but it’s crucial to the health of our ecosystem. We might even change your mind about so-called “nuisance animals”—did you know skunks eat black widow spiders? Or that bats help keep the mosquito population in check? Bottom line: Every animal has its place, and it’s up to us to find ways to coexist.

Similar to how pets and wild animals coexist but seldom directly interact, Project Wildlife and SDHS used to be passive partners. Since 2014 we’ve been in it together. Now Project Wildlife is spreading its wings and moving into a brand-new center complete with its own full-time vet (more on page 20). It wouldn’t have been possible without our supporters, including Pilar and Chuck Bahde, for whom the center is named, and Project Wildlife board member Rita Myers, who was instrumental in the planning process. (We named a room for her rescue raccoon Ollie.)

Education is part of Project Wildlife’s mission, too. It’s important to know what to do if you find a nest of baby rabbits or a fledgling on the ground (find out on page 7), especially now—spring is baby season. Project Wildlife is throwing a virtual baby shower to get ready. Check out the wish list on Amazon and while you’re there, choose SDHS as your preferred charity on Amazon Smile. Check our calendar for fun Wake Up with Wildlife lectures, too.

It’s a privilege to live in San Diego. It’s the most biodiverse part of the state. We have 320 species here, all as important as companion animals. There’s no reason not to help these animals—they’re part of what makes San Diego so unique.


Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA
President and CEO
San Diego Humane Society


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