By Michael Neary, firstname.lastname@example.org
People who long to help when they see struggling or injured wild creatures can find some answers, and some strategies, this weekend.
Members of the Mendocino Wildlife Association — with help from Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue — are offering First Responder Training designed to allow people to rescue and to rehabilitate wildlife, and also to field calls on hotlines.
The training runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, [August 20, 2016] at the Laytonville Grange, with a cost of $20 that includes an “organic local lunch.”
People who complete the training will receive a “memorandum of understanding,” said Traci Pellar, executive coordinator of the Mendocino Wildlife Association.
“After you get your memorandum of understanding, this gives you the California legal (permission) to touch wildlife,” Pellar said. “If a little racoon got hit on the side of the road, you can be a first responder.”
Linnaea Furlong, education outreach director at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, will conduct the training. She said a key goal is to prepare people to transport animals in need to Sonoma County where they can be rehabilitated.
“They’ll be able to rescue and transport animals from Mendocino to here,” Furlong said.
Furlong noted a number of common dangers for area wildlife. They might, for instance, have been hit by cars, caught by cats or dogs or ensnared in illegal traps.
“A lot of times people are having problems with predation, and they don’t know better methods,” Furlong said, referring to the traps.
A longer-term goal of the training, Furlong added, is to teach people to rehabilitate wildlife — something Pellar said is acutely needed in Mendocino County.
“If we have a wildlife emergency, there’s nowhere to take (the animal) except Sonoma County,” Pellar said.
The need for wildlife education is also pressing, Pellar added, particularly with regard to habitat preservation.
“If we want to preserve species, that means leaving habitat alone,” she said. She noted the importance, for instance, of manzanita trees, which she said provides food for a host of animals, including birds, coyotes, bears, bobcats, rabbits, possums, skunks and mountain lions.
“People just clear them away,” Pellar said of the trees.
The seeds for the Mendocino Wildlife Association were planted in the spring of 2015, Pellar explained. She recalled a “little starving bear” in Branscomb that riveted attention on environmental problems in the area.
“Because of deforestation, it lost its home,” Pellar said, adding that the fate of the bear is unknown.
Around the same time, she noted, Mendocino County was settling a lawsuit with a coalition of organizations including Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Project Coyote, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The coalition had filed a suit in November 2014 because the county, the lawsuit claimed, had failed to complete a required environmental review when it approved a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Agency “to kill predators including coyotes,” the Times reported in April 2015.
After a second lawsuit, filed in the summer of 2015, the county suspended its program with the Wildlife Services Agency as a condition of the settlement “pending completion of an Environmental Impact Report,” said Chuck Morse, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture for Mendocino County, in a telephone interview.
Pellar said she watched the process closely, attending hearings along the way. During those months, in collaboration with Leslie Gravier, Monica Balwinski and Jon Spitz, Pellar worked to create the Mendocino Wildlife Association.
Pellar said she’s working on compiling the required 400 hours of wildlife interaction to earn her wildlife rehabilitation license, a process she’s completing under the supervision of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. That means the memorandum of understanding participants in Saturday’s First Responder Training receive will come from Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, rather than from the Mendocino Wildlife Association.
“Eventually it will come from us,” Pellar said, noting that she is months away from receiving her license.
People interested in the training can call Pellar at 707-357-5693, but they can also come and pay the fee on Saturday.
Pellar said the association is preparing a wildlife rescue hotline, at 707-984-6363, that she expects to be operating next week.