Shelter serves wildlife and humans |

Shelter serves wildlife and humans

Ryan Salm/ Sierra SunFounder and Executive Director of Wildlife Shelter, Inc, Connie Stevens nurses a brown Myotis bat in Homewood on Monday. The Wildlife Shelter is the home to dozens of animals in various stages of rehabilitation.

Wildlife Shelter, Inc., the only local animal rescue center, works to assist distressed critters in the Lake Tahoe Basin as well as educate humans on how to cohabitate with their wild neighbors.

In a cottage tucked behind the Rockwood Lodge Bed and Breakfast, Connie Stevens, founder and executive director of the shelter, caters to the needs of injured, ill and orphaned animals. In 1985 Stevens came upon two baby jays, and has since successfully rescued, rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild hundreds of wild creatures.

“Once you’ve cared for an animal,” Stevens said. “[You] can’t look at a species the same way.”

Stevens originally worked for American Airlines as a purser and a French translator before coming across her more recent passion for animal rescue. She eventually took all classes with the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council from basic to advanced wildlife care.

Among her 50 or so current patients ” two great-horned owls, a handful of chipmunks and tree squirrels, one raccoon, five mallards, a red-tailed hawk ” a few are close to graduation day.

The ultimate goal is to return the patients to their natural habitat whenever possible. Generally, a release rate of more than 50 percent is considered successful. The trend for the last five years at the shelter is 76 percent.

During the summer weeks, the shelter gives themed lectures in a small amphitheater off the San Souci Bike Trail in Homewood. This Saturday they will be discussing Sierra reptiles. The talks vary in subject, from Truckee River residents to hibernation. The lectures are at noon every Saturday.

“[The bike trail talks] spread the word more effectively. Last weekend it was all adults. This week it was half children,” Stevens said. “I never know what’s to come. The lecture is geared to the audience.”

In addition to serving the community and the local wildlife, the shelter, Inc. also offers academic opportunities. The 12-week, 500-hour internship program grants university students the chance to spend the summer in Tahoe working with various wildlife, accommodations included, for school credit and $5,000 towards tuition and books.

“You can put all that theory you learn in the classroom to use here, and more,” said Stevens. “Nobody can teach you like Professor Hawk or Professor Jay. Nobody can teach you like the patients.”

The shelter is an on-site wildlife care facility that serves the community 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Bringing together medical training, practical experience and compassion, the Wildlife Shelter, Inc. has become a staple support of Tahoe wildlife.

– Do not touch the animal with bare hands.

– Place the covered animal in a box or bag padded with towels. Do not poke holes in the box or bag.

– Keep the animal warm, dark, and quiet.

– Do not feed or water the animal.

– Call 546-1211 for assistance. The answering service will then page a volunteer.

For more information on how to treat a distressed animal, educational programs, or volunteer opportunities, check out the Web site at or call 525-WILD.

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