OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah is calling on the community to help secure its future after a letter from the Ogden City attorney notified the nonprofit organization that it has until September 6 to vacate the city-owned facility it’s called home for more than a decade.

DaLyn Marthaler wrapped up a hawk’s foot one morning. This particular hawk is a migratory species and will be released back into the wild as soon as it is warm enough.  

The hawk is just one of roughly 4,000 animals the center treats annually. Last year, the center treated a little more than 2,700 animals. Due to the outbreak of avian flu, the center couldn’t take in waterfowl for the better part of the year. This reduced the number of animals the rehab center could take in.   

“It’s very hard to watch an animal suffer,” the center’s executive director DaLyn Marthaler told ABC4. Marthaler’s love for animals runs deep. While thinking back on her childhood, she said: “I started rescuing all these little critters under my bed and when my mom found out, she had a holy fit.”  

It was a holy fit for a passion Marthaler holds sacred. One could even say it was a calling that led to the establishment of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah back in 2009. Shortly after the center was founded, Ogden City allowed the center to move into a building next to George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park. For Marthaler, it was a blessing.   

“We cannot find another facility that is already built for animals so now we have to try to beat this deadline which we can’t,” she stated. Marthaler explained that in order to care for wildlife (wild birds for the most part), the center has to meet strict state and federal regulations. The city-owned building fits the needs exactly. However, the city now wants the center out of the building. They have until September 6 to vacate.  

The city attorney’s letter states: “The premises were never intended to be a permanent facility for the WRCNU and were always intended to be used for dinosaur park expansion.” It continues: “The time has come for the city to redevelop the premises for other important public uses, as planned.”  

“When we got the letter, we were completely caught off guard,” Marthaler said. “We were blown away.   

According to Marthaler, the center is the only licensed wildlife rehab center in northern Utah and the largest of its kind in the state. There are smaller ones a few hours away, but she said they are already running at capacity and will not be able to take in the animals from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah if the center is forced to shut its doors. Marthaler added: “They can’t make up for the deficit that this is going to leave, so that would mean the death of about 4,000 animals a year.   

Marthaler told ABC4 that they need an extension from the city of five years to launch a capital campaign and raise enough money to build a new facility that will meet all federal and state requirements. This will cost millions of dollars on top of the already steep price of running a nonprofit rehab.   

“Our food budget is $75,000 a year,” said Marthaler. “Just the supply of food. It does not include our medications. It does not include our vet costs.” Marthaler told ABC4 they rely on the generosity of the community to meet their financial needs. She explained that there are grants out there that they get to help with the cost, but these grants are often much less than what they need. For example, she said they often get grants to treat bald eagles. Nonetheless, these grants usually come out to $2,000 when the average cost to rehabilitate a bald eagle is $4,000. 

If the city does not allow an extension of five years, Marthaler said they may ask for two years at the very least. This would give them time to find a temporary home and retrofit it to meet standards and needs until they could get into their forever home. However, she said this would end up costing the center more money in the long run.  

If no agreement is made, she said this would mean closing their doors. The center has been able to use the city’s facility under an educational services agreement. They often team up with the dinosaur park and offer educational programs to teach the public about Earth’s living dinosaurs, how humans impact native wildlife, etc. 

The center currently has around 40 volunteers, a handful of full-time employees, veterinary medicine students who are getting hands-on experience, and apprentices who must complete an apprenticeship to open their own wildlife centers. All of this will be lost if the center has to close. Marthaler emphasized this by saying: “There’s a lot at stake.”  

Marthaler told ABC4 that it’s ironic that the city is going to allow extinct dinosaurs to push out living dinosaurs from the rehabilitation center. Marthaler is asking the community to do what it can to help the center survive. To learn more about how you can help, click here.  

Community members also started an online petition a few days ago to encourage the city to stop the expansion of the dinosaur park.  

Marthaler told ABC4 that a local moving company has already come forward and offered their services free of charge when the time comes.