The Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center, which helps several thousand birds each year, closed Dec. 24 due to damage from a winter storm. Pipes in the building froze and exploded. The ceiling, walls and floors were damaged by water.
The center’s director, Stephanie Hermann, said the damage was too severe to allow it to remain open.
“The building wasn’t really safe to work in after that damage,” said Hermann. “Fortunately, there are other rehabilitation facilities in the area that have permits as well, and we have partnered with them to relocate these animals immediately.”
All birds under Portland Audubon care were sent to the Cascades Raptor Center, Chimini Wildlife Center, and North Coast Wildlife Center. No animals were harmed by the winter storm. Portland Audubon Leaders hope to reopen their doors in a few months, before little bird season.
“We all care deeply about the work that we do, and we know that it really is a very important job for our community,” said Hermann. “People depend on us to be there. Animals need us, and nothing in Portland does the same.”
Before the winter storm, the nonprofit had already planned to move Portland Care Center to a new location because the 30-year-old building had outgrown the area’s needs. The current site is quite small for the amount of patients Audubon serves. It lacks space for proper isolation or quarantine, lacks a surgical suite, cannot handle large-scale events, and does not have the capacity to hold waterfowl or large mammals. In 2012, the nonprofit sought a new location for expansion, but in 2015, it was determined that relocation costs were too high. The group’s board of directors decided to completely renovate the existing center instead.
During the final licensing of the project, it was discovered that the building’s sewage system would not be able to sustain a project of this magnitude. In 2021, the Audubon leaders finally decide that relocation is the only option. But finding a space that can serve the Portland area is difficult and expensive.
“We have a lot of the same functions as a veterinary clinic, so we need the medical space 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,” Herrmann said.
She said the new site would also require a large amount of land to accommodate flight cages for animals under rehabilitation. The search for large parcels of land near the Portland metropolitan area limits the options.
“[If] “You’ve found an animal, you need to take care of it and get back to your life very quickly,” said Hermann. “So we don’t want to be really far away.”
Portland Audubon leaders hope to reopen the care center in March once repairs are complete, and then locate a site 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 disputes.
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in downtown Portland is accepting wildlife patients who cannot be immediately transferred to other rehabilitation facilities. Portland Audubon works closely with DoveLewis to assess, stabilize and transfer patients to other rehabilitation facilities across the state.
Hermann said people needed a place to bring injured animals.
“The sheer number of animals we receive would be fine in the wild were it not for human influences,” she said. “…part of responsible urban wildlife management is to have a choice like this because you don’t want to cause this unnecessary suffering and allow it to continue unaddressed.”
Repairs to the existing care center should be covered by insurance, but Portland Audubon is still seeking donations and volunteers, especially as the busy season approaches.