Wildlife rescue center proposed for San Francisco

A local group that rescues orphaned mammals has started to search for land and funds in a bid to build a bird and wildlife hospital in avian-rich San Francisco.

About 40 volunteers for the 7-year-old nonprofit San Francisco Rescued Orphan Mammal Program currently care for injured animals at their homes, founder Jamie Ray said.

Ray presented her nascent proposal to build a $2 million wildlife hospital and nature center to environment commissioners recently.

“What we need is to be able to build a 100-foot-long flight aviary for hawks that are rehabilitating and to have water pools for recovering water birds,” Ray told The Examiner.

Such a facility, which she hopes to open by the end of 2010, could have helped care for oiled birds after the Cosco Busan container ship spilled more than 50,000 gallons of fuel into the Bay in November.

“We were the emergency response team before a trailer got set up and it was just raining oiled birds. I would really emphasize for all the people who came out and wanted to help that if we had a center locally, then they could have helped,” Ray said.

“With any animal — whether it’s oiled, injured or anything else — getting it immediate emergency care is critical to its survival,” she said.

Employees with the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control helped ferry more than 100 oiled birds to a variety of temporary and permanent rescue centers around and close to the Bay after the spill, according to department Director Carl Friedman.

Not counting birds that were affected by the Cosco Busan spill, department employees drive as many as 350 injured animals a year to a wildlife hospital in Burlingame operated by the Peninsula Human Society, according to Friedman. He said around 80 percent of those animals are birds.

“It would be wonderful to have a wildlife rehabilitation center here in San Francisco,” Friedman told The Examiner. Ray’s proposal includes aviaries as well as a nature education center and outdoor picnic area.

She has proposed building the center at Lake Merced or in western Golden Gate Park at the former site of the Richmond-Sunset treatment plant. A parking lot, soccer field and storage area are currently planned at the Golden Gate Park site, according to Department of Recreation and Park official Dan Mauer. Mauer said any changes to those plans would need to be approved by department commissioners as well as the Board of Supervisors.

jupton@examiner.com

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