When I first started volunteering at Wildwoods two years ago, it was run out of the backyard of a private residence. Several sheds and outbuildings had been built in the backyard, with electricity and running water, but many animals spent their time in the home's basement. Can you imagine having volunteers and staff members coming and going all day every day through your back door? Can you imagine having everything from porcupines to herons to mice and bald eagles recovering in your basement?
According to the Minnesota State Department of Natural Resources, wildlife rehabilitators across the state will handle about 9,000 wild animals each year. Last year Wildwoods alone admitted over 1,100 animals. With only 850 square feet of space to care for all these animals, it became clear that we had to move on to a bigger, more specialized facility. So the difficult decision was made to purchase property and begin construction on a new facility with more than 5,000 square feet.
In just a few weeks we are excitedly expecting to move into the first of two new buildings, giving us three times more operating space than we have had for the last 10 years, but so much more still needs to be done. We will be rolling out the construction in four phases. Phase one, already completed, includes construction of 75 percent of the first building, 1,875 square feet, and making a few superficial renovations to the existing structure to make it more appropriate for our office space.
Phase two, which we began at the end of May, will see the completion of the first building, giving us 2,500 square feet of nursery and recovery space for our patients, plus outdoor pre-release cages and site preparation for things such as a nine-stall parking lot and a security system.
In the spring of 2017 we aim to begin phase three. The second building will be finished and will include bathrooms and a laundry room. All outdoor pre-release and test-flight cages will be completed, and we can move on to phase four.
By the end of December 2017 the new Wildwoods should finally be complete. The focus on phase four will be on making improvements to the medical examination area, adding x-ray equipment and a triage space for diagnosing issues and administering medications.
Even though phase one has been completed, we cannot move the animals into the new building until all inspections have passed and the last remaining final touches are done. Until that day, all of our patients, about 500 so far this year, have been, and will continue to be cared for in the basement of the office space. We have had to find creative ways to give proper care to every animal that comes through our doors, and we do our best with what we have, but we cannot offer the best care to our patients until the new buildings are finished. For all of the staff here, that has been the hardest thing to deal with during this transition—knowing that we could be doing so much more, and so much better, but being limited by the space we have.
This experience has been quite a leap of faith for all of us at Wildwoods because we did not have the initial finances to back it up, and have been relying solely on the donations of our compassionate and generous community. Because of all of these wonderful people we have been able to raise just over $70,000 so we can move forward, but the total cost of the project is expected to be at least $420,000. Wildwoods' Executive Director Farzad Farr said, "Over the last 10 years we have come a long way mainly due to the community support. We hope this organization grows and continues to provide a place for injured and orphaned wildlife for generations to come."
If you would like to make a contribution and help us rescue thousands of wild animals in need, you can donate securely online or you can mail a check made out to Wildwoods and with "Support Our Growth" in the memo line to:
Wildwoods Attn: Support Our Growth PO Box 3161 Duluth, MN 55803