Wildlife center deserves support | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife center deserves support

It’s not a zoo.The animals at the Western Colorado Wildlife Rehabilitation Education Centers don’t have names. No cuddling is allowed. They are there to be healed and, if all goes well, returned to the wild.For 23 years, the center has taken injured animals of all ages from the wild, brought in by concerned residents and state wildlife officers who find injured or orphaned creatures that need a safe place. The wounded recuperate and return to the wild; the orphaned are trained to survive in their native habitat before being released.All the work is done in ways to minimize human contact, so the animals don’t come to rely on the good will of womankind for their next meal. One day last week, a young bobcat was full of contempt for his caregivers, founder Nanci Limbach and volunteer Natalie Hert. “He hisses and spits at ya, which is good,” Limbach said in an interview. The kitten has a better chance in the wild because of that healthy mistrust of human beings. It will be fed a diet of live chickens, mice and pigeons so it learns how to kill prey. If all goes well, it will be released by spring.A study of the bears that have come through the Western Colorado Wildlife Rehabilitation Education Centers shows only 5 percent have become nuisance bears. The center has, over the years, cared for hundreds of wild animals including coyote, deer, elk, rabbits, owls, hawks and eagles. The center also houses and cares for wild animals bred in captivity.All that care costs money. Last year, Limbach, using donations and the occasional grant, spent $68,000 on feed alone. While area veterinarians are great about donating their time, medicines still need to be bought. The state’s Division of Wildlife, which relies heavily on the Limbach’s services, is legally barred from giving money to the center.Limbach’s operation is one of a handful of such wildlife centers. It performs a vital service to all the forest’s users, human or otherwise, by caring for the animals of western Colorado. Would this state really be the same without its wildlife? The center, located near Silt, helps keep the natural balance healthy. It deserves our support. If you are able to make a donation, please send it to: Nanci Limbach, Western Colorado Wildlife Rehabilitation Education Center, 5945 County Road 346, Silt, CO 81652.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.