By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
One of the many reasons we love living in the Sonoran Desert is that it is home to an abundance of wildlife. Coyotes and their kits roam freely across the desert behind our home, while hawks, owls, and falcons soar above the mountains throughout the metro area. We have frequent visits from hummingbirds and bats, with the occasional Javelina scavenging for food down the block. But living in such close quarters with wild animals can take its toll on both humans and wildlife.
As the Phoenix metro area has grown over the years, our love of wildlife in the Valley has given rise to some fantastic nonprofit animal sanctuaries and rescue facilities. Many of these facilities are open to the public and are a great way to get your kids interested in science and nature. If you and your family need help with a wild animal rescue or want to lend your support to helping these efforts, take a look at these local organizations.
Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
One of the leading wildlife sanctuaries in the southwestern United States can be found in northeast Scottsdale, just north of McDowell Mountain Regional Park. The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) is a nonprofit organization that has rescued and rehabilitated thousands of wild animals for more than 25 years. The main goal of SWCC is to release the animals back into the wild. However, their accredited sanctuary also provides a home for those animals that cannot be released.
The SWCC facility is open to the public 365 days a year to provide education and help inspire people to learn about and respect native wildlife and conserve its habitat. The sanctuary is home to native wildlife from around the southwest and is proud to offer space at their sanctuary to care for part of the captive Mexican Wolf population as a member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary
The Phoenix Herpetological Society (PHS) is one of the premier reptile sanctuaries in the country. This North Scottsdale based organization and its research facility works with private citizens, rescue organizations, and state and federal wildlife officials and law enforcement to house and care for rescued, unwanted, or seized reptiles from across the United States. Most of the hundreds of animals at the sanctuary were abandoned, abused, or confiscated from individuals who possessed them illegally.
PHS was started almost 20 years ago to provide a refuge for unwanted or rescued reptiles around the state due to a lack of specific knowledge and understanding of the special care and housing required for reptiles by other rescue agencies. The organization believes that conservation begins with education and their volunteers spend countless hours visiting schools and educational locations around the Valley to educate the public about reptiles and how important they are to our ecosystem. The facility is open by appointment only, but they do host birthday parties, lead field trips, and conduct classroom programs, professional development workshops, and venomous snake training courses for the public.
Wild At Heart
Wild At Heart in Cave Creek is a rescue, rehabilitation, and release center specifically for raptors and birds of prey. This organization focuses on rehabilitating and rescuing injured owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles with a goal to release them back into the wild. Wild At Heart also works to relocate displaced burrowing owls, manage species recovery programs and habitat enhancement projects, and provide educational presentations to schools and other organizations.
This facility is open to the general public by special appointment only, but they do provide educational presentations upon request.
Liberty Wildlife, located in the heart of downtown Phoenix just south of Sky Harbor Airport, has been helping Arizona rehabilitate and release thousands of wild animals every year for almost 40 years. The organization cares for between 7,000 and 8,000 animals every year and has a release rate of over 50%, well above the national average. You can find animals that they were not able to be rereleased in many zoos, nature centers, and breeding facilities as wildlife ambassadors for conservation around the state.
As strong believers in educating the public, especially children, Liberty Wildlife provides world class educational programs with trained wildlife handlers and teachers using well-conditioned educational raptors who have been deemed non-releasable. The organization provides hundreds of programs each year for the public in a variety of settings. They also host field trips, summer camp, activities for kids, and a special program for Eagle Scouts.
These are just a few of the many nonprofit organizations in the Valley of the Sun that rescue injured and displaced wildlife in Arizona. Visit Ladybug’s Blog at ladybugsblog.com for more information about wildlife and other animal sightings in our state.