They didn't arrive with broken wings or tarred feathers, and they weren't found orphaned at the side of a highway, but the human inhabitants of the animal enclosures at the new Wildlife Rehabilitation Center helped get the word out: wild animals in need of care will be helped here.
From 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, community leaders/animal advocates volunteered to be "caged" to bring attention to the vital work that will be done in the new facility at the Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion, located at 1450 Rollins Rd. in Burlingame.
The "Walk on the Wild Side" open house continues on Sunday from 12-4, but on Saturday local luminaries experienced the comfort of a raccoon tire swing, the peacefulness of a song bird enclosure and the gentle, warm waters of the seabird therapy pool. Saturday's "wild things" included PHS/SPCA president, Ken White; longtime Bay Area media personality Doug McConnell; Buck’s of Woodside Restaurant owner Jamis MacNiven; ; Foster City vice mayor Pam Frisella; and former Belmont mayor and current teacher .
"We've been big fans of PHS for a long time," said Doug McConnell, host of "Bay Area Backroads." "To see this fabulous new facility is so wonderful--it's great to be here. I hope this place can serve as a model to other centers around the country."
Volunteers in forest green PHS shirts greeted visitors and welcomed them into the animal enclosures to learn more about the care the animals receive. Visitors also had an opportunity to chat with day's human inhabitants. Belmont's Central Elementary School teacher George Metropulos saw his captivity as a teaching opportunity, quizzing some of his students who came by to visit.
From his seabird enclosure, Metropulos asked, "Name me two local seabirds." His third grade student, Sloan Adrouny with the help of her two sisters was able to come up with seagulls and pelicans. Volunteer Kathleen Shecter pointed out that although there are seagulls in coastal areas, gull is actually the correct term. "Most of these types of birds are inland gulls" explained Shecter.
Foster City's vice mayor, Pam Frisella, was in an adjoining seabird enclosure. "This is a good place for me to be, with all the ducks and geese we have in Foster City." Frisella added that she was very impressed with the new center and is a strong supporter of the work done by PHS.
PHS senior vice president of community relations, and frequent Patch contributor, Scott Delucchi, explained that the timing of the open house coincided with the seasonal intake of injured or abandoned wild animals. "We see 3-4000 wild animals a year," explained Delucchi. "Winter is typically our slow season, but once late February, early March rolls around, we will be very busy.
"A typical scenario would be a mother duck getting hit by a car, and a good Samaritan brings in a box of orphaned ducklings." Delucchi stressed the importance of rehabilitating the injured and orphaned animals and keeping them in an environment closest to their most natural surroundings. "Our goal is to release them back into the wild," said Delucchi.
Over in the raccoon enclosure, San Mateo County supervisor, Adreinne Tissier admired the cozy conditions set up for the playful critters who would soon make this their temporary home.
"I'm a huge supporter of PHS and the work they do here," said Tissier. Volunteer Kathy Jones took Tissier and Sister William Eileen of the Daughters of Charity on a tour of the raccoon environs.
"They love to climb, and play, which is why we have so many branches, tire swings and boxes full of toys for them," said James of the raccoons. "When we get orphaned babies, we will have them here for about three months, so it's important that we keep them in their natural wild environment. They are bottle fed five or six times a day--and just like human babies, they take those bottles very eagerly."
James added that once the baby raccoons are able to be released, volunteers will try to return them to the place they were found, in hopes that the raccoon mother will come back to claim her babies.
And not to be forgotten, Buck's Restaurant owner, Jamis MacNiven pressed himself up against the door of his songbird enclosure, donning bright yellow fisherman's gear. "I get all my animals here, and I even give some back, like the alligator." he quipped.
MacNiven's cage-mate was PHS/SPCA president Ken White. White, clearly pleased with the day's event, explained, "Jamis has donated three sculptures: the eight-foot alligator he's referring to, Calypso Kitty and the Doggie Diner head in the lobby."
"James is an extraordinarily good friend and a strong supporter," added White.
The open house continues Sunday, 12-4 p.m. In addition to touring the enclosures, visitors will learn about coexisting with urban wildlife, and kids will have an opportunity to participate in wildlife related activities and crafts. For more information, go to www.phs-spca.org.