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Hope for the Helpless

Category: General Article

Back to Corvallis and Vicinity

Zach Heesch meets a group of Oceanscape Network Youth Correspondents with a smile on his face and a peregrine falcon on his arm. The bird tips its head to one side, inspecting the visitors with its sharp eyes.

Zach explains how the falcon was injured in a collision with a car and was brought to the Chintimini Wildlife Center on the outskirts of Corvallis for medical care. Although successfully rehabilitated, the bird’s injuries were permanent which meant it could not be released back to the wild. The falcon eventually became part of the center’s Raptor Education Program (REP). Now the falcon, along with several related species, helps program staff raise public awareness about the challenges raptors face, including pollution, habitat destruction and potentially dangerous interactions with people.

“We think of him like he’s an educator,” Zach smiles.

As Director of the Raptor Conservation, Zach divides his time between working with birds and educating the public about Chintimini. The center’s mission goes far beyond caring for injured and orphaned wildlife, and includes a robust education program, volunteer opportunities, public tours and presentations, and various special events. For many people living in the central Willamette Valley, the center provides an opportunity to see local wildlife up close.

“We will admit just about any animal native to Oregon,” Zach said. “There are few exceptions to that, such as cougars and bears which are a little too large or too dangerous for a mostly volunteer staff.”

Happily, most of Chintimini’s patients are returned to the wild, a feat Zach says would not be possible without the help of up to about 100 dedicated volunteers.

“Our volunteers really do a lot of the work that goes on here and that means the dirty work too, such as cleaning cages or preparing food for a wide variety of animals. Some of those animals have what most people consider pretty disgusting dietary needs so it can be very challenging.”

Anyone interested in exploring volunteer opportunities — including teens — can submit an application online and will then be contacted about orientation and training.

“We provide volunteers with all kinds of opportunities to learn about these animals and branch out to network with more people in the community,” Zach explained. “It’s really a good place for students trying to get into the field as well as anybody that really wants to help animals in their area.”

Chintimini Wildlife Center is located at 311 NW Lewisburg Avenue in Corvallis. To learn more, including hours of operation and a listing of programs, visit their website at chintiminiwildlife.org or call (541) 745-5324.

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