Portland Audubon’s Wildlife Care Center, which helps several thousand birds each year, closed on Dec. 24 because of damage from a winter storm. Pipes in the building froze and burst. The ceiling, walls and floors were damaged by water.
The center’s manager, Stephanie Herman, said the damage was too severe to stay open.
”The building wasn’t really safe for us to work in after this damage,” Herman said. “Luckily there are other rehab facilities in the region that also have permits, and we partnered with them to get those animals transferred right away. “
All of the birds under Portland Audubon’s care were sent to The Cascades Raptor Center, Chimmini Wildlife Center and the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. No animals were harmed by the winter storm damage. Portland Audubon leaders hope to reopen within a few months, ahead of baby bird season.
“We all care very deeply about the work that we do, and we know that it’s a really critical function for our community,” Herman said. “People rely on us to be there. The animals need us, and there really isn’t something in Portland that does the same thing.”
Prior to the winter storm, the nonprofit already planned to move the Portland care center to a new location because the 30-year-old building had outgrown the region’s needs. The current location is too small for the volume of patients Audubon serves. It lacks the space for proper isolation or quarantine, lacks a surgical suite, can’t handle large-scale events, and doesn’t have capacity for holding waterfowl or larger mammals. In 2012, the nonprofit sought a new location to expand, but in 2015, it was determined the costs to relocate were too high. The group’s board decided to completely renovate the current center instead.
During the final permitting of the project, it was discovered the building’s septic system would not be able to sustain a project of that size. In 2021, Audubon leaders ultimately decided that relocating was the only option. But finding a space that can serve the Portland area is difficult and costly.
“We have a lot of the same functions as a veterinary clinic, so we need the medical spaces and the equipment, but we’re also a little bit like a zoo because we have to keep animals in captivity and these animals have really complex needs,” Herman said.
She said a new location would also require a lot of land to hold flight cages for animals in rehabilitation. Finding large plots of land near the urban area of Portland limits options.
“[If] you found an animal, you need to get it taken care of and get back to your life pretty quickly,” Herman said. “So we don’t want to be really far away.”
Portland Audubon leaders hope to re-open the care center in March once repairs are complete, and then identify a location for a new center this spring. In the meantime, the group’s wildlife hotline continues to take calls during business hours to answer questions about injured or orphaned wildlife and help resolve wildlife conflicts.
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in downtown Portland is accepting wildlife patients that cannot be immediately transported to other rehabilitation facilities. Portland Audubon is working closely with DoveLewis to assess, stabilize and transport patients to other rehabilitation facilities around the state.
Herman said people need a place to bring injured animals.
“The overwhelming number of animals we receive would be fine in the wild if it weren’t for human impacts,” she said. “... Part of responsible urban wildlife management is to have an option like this because you don’t want to cause this unnecessary suffering and allow that to continue unaddressed.”
Repairs to the current care center should be covered by insurance, but Portland Audubon is still seeking donations and volunteers, especially as the busy season approaches.