OGDEN CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Ogden City is evicting the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah from the building it has called home for more than a decade. The center is pleading for the eviction to be postponed.
The rehab center will need to be out of the building this autumn and as a result, they stopped accepting new animals on May 15. Since that day, other animal rescues along the Wasatch Front have been bombarded with calls for help. Those organizations are asking the city to halt the eviction.
The bald eagle is arguably the ultimate symbol of freedom in America. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah (WRCNU) has a bald eagle in its care. It is not one that will be able to be released into the wild but will serve as an education ambassador. That is if its freedom to live isn’t taken from it.
“We’re moving live animals that have individual needs,” WRCNU Executive Director Dalyn Marthaler told ABC4. The center stopped taking in new animals on May 15 but already had many in its care at that time. This move will be detrimental to those animals. “We’ve got 150 different species and all of those species have different needs,” Marthaler stated. “We’ve got to be able to properly house them and care for them.”
The center has until fall 2023 to get out, however, Marthaler explained that it is easier said than done. To house the birds in its care, WRCNU has to have a facility that meets strict federal and state standards.
Marthaler told ABC4 that she fully understands why the standards are in place. They help ensure the health and well-being of many bird species. However, finding (or building) a facility that meets all the requirements is not something that can be done quickly. If eviction day comes and they still don’t have a proper facility, all the animals, including the bald eagle, will have to be euthanized.
“It provides a people service and an animal service and it’s very important to me that it’s not interrupted in any way,” former wildlife rehabilitator Jackie Kent told ABC4. She is one of many community members who hope that the city will rescind the eviction and give the center the proper amount of time needed to find a new facility. She said this center is not just important for Ogden but plays a crucial role in state needs as well. “It’s something that will be pushed off to other organizations like the department of natural resources and they’re going to get phone calls they don’t want to take,” Kent added.
Other rescuers are already getting those phone calls. Rescues like Wasatch Wanderers Rescue. “As an organization, we’ve already received dozens of phone calls since WRNCU has closed down about wildlife. Unfortunately, our hands are tied,” the rescue’s president Adison Smith stated. “We can direct them to live the wildlife there or possibly take them to another rescue that is several, several hours away.”
Smith said that for many people, driving hours away to deliver an injured animal just isn’t possible. So, sadly, many of the phone calls they now get end up with them giving out the same advice. “Basically, just tell them to leave the animal to die,” Smith said. “So, it’s been really, really hard and it’s affecting everyone.”
Another organization that is being affected is Ducks and Clucks Sanctuary in Salt Lake City. “This week, as I was driving to go look at one duck, I watched cars in front of me hit another duck and her ducklings,” director Tiffany Young recounted. “I pulled over and tried to save the ones I could. It’s just a horrible time here for this to happen at all. We have to get them back open for Utah’s wildlife.” Like the other rescue, Young said they are facing more calls, questions and hopeful drop-offs.
However, like the other rescue, there is only so much they can do. “We just don’t have the facilities that they have at WRCNU right now that are unused,” Young said. “We need the mayor to slow down and back off asking them to vacate. It’s the busy season right now. Wildlife is already suffering and needlessly dying.”
WRCNU treats around 4,000 animals annually. Most of the animals they take in are injured by human causes. The center has already started a capital campaign to raise money for the relocation. It could take up to five years to get a proper facility built.