September 15, 2023 Newsletter - Click here to read full story complete with photos and videos of the bear cubs!
We are thrilled to announce that after three years of planning and over two years of fundraising, we have finally broken ground on our Apex Predator Enclosure (APE). In this time, we have learned firsthand how much a facility of this magnitude is needed in the state of California. Currently, out of 80 CDFW permitted wildlife centers across our state, there are only three other centers with the ability to rehabilitate black bear cubs and options for mountain lions are even more limited. This lack of resources can lead to the incredibly difficult decision of needing to euthanize an animal due to the lack of appropriate rehabilitation resources. Our hope is that once the APE is finalized, these tough calls will be few and far between.
The most recent example of just how our resources can make a difference in the lives of wildlife is the arrival of three male black bear cubs from a human wildlife conflict situation in South Lake Tahoe. The problem which has had a lot of media attention is that their mother was very good at breaking into cars and houses to rummage for food. Because of this, their mother became a threat to humans. So when she had 3 male cubs and was teaching them that same unwanted behavior, something had to be done. Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is honored to be a part of these cubs’ journey back to the wild and have implemented an enrichment plan we are confident will correct any previous behavior issues they may have learned from their mother in the wild. So far, they are thriving and exhibiting behaviors expected of young, wild bear cubs. Included in the media coverage, is a story from our friends at KRON 4 which highlighted not only the bear cubs' arrival, but also the groundbreaking of our APE! Click here to watch!
With a project of this size and cost, the APE’s development was broken into stages from the start. While the financial impact of this enclosure has increased in the past two years due to the increase in the cost of equipment, labor, and materials, we have raised enough funds to complete Phases 1-4.
We started with Phase One – APE Development Plans, three years ago planning this enclosure from the ground up. Our team has met countless times, scrutinizing, and dreaming up every single detail of this enclosure in conjunction with visiting other black bear rehabilitation centers across the country to learn from them.
Phase Two – Tree Removal, has been an ongoing process with Hodgin and Son’s Tree Care returning time and time again to help remove trees in order to have a secluded and safe space to construct this enclosure.
Ghilotti Brothers helped us with Phase Three – Groundwork by moving the felled trees into position so that we can use them for enrichment and extra security to prevent escape once the project is complete.
That brings us to today and the start of Phase Four – Building Enclosure #1. This is perhaps the most exciting part of the APE to date. Enclosure #1 is the largest enclosure in the APE and will be about the size of a football field, compared to their current enclosure which is the size of an average living room.
Several professional partners are coming together to make this phase a reality, with Kenwood Fencing leading the charge, building the bulk of the enclosure.
The construction of the den house and log enrichment will be handled by a team of our wildlife facility crew who have been working with us for more than 25 years. After a tree fell on our existing bear enclosure this year, this incredibly skilled team helped us rebuild and enhance our enrichment in this enclosure. Even more recently in the same enclosure, they constructed a specialized den to replace the wooden den that could no longer withstand the strength of the growing bear cubs.
This brings us to the future phases of the APE development. To complete the facility, and make the largest impact we can, we still need additional funding.
We are now fundraising for the final phases of the project which include:
Phase 5 - Large Water Feature
Phase 6 - Build Mountain Lion Enclosure
Phase 7 - Isolation Area for Disease Control
Phase 8 - Fireproof Den House
Phase 9 - Perimeter Fence
Phase 5 - Large Water Feature is next on the horizon and we are hoping to begin construction as soon as possible. Dan and Todd Henrickson, who constructed the large pond and nursery pond in our Aquatic Mammal Enclosure, have agreed to build a water feature that will match the natural environment of the cubs we care for.
Over the past two years of observing the cubs interacting with the enrichment we’ve provided to them; we’ve learned just how important having access to water is. At least three times a day, we have observed the cubs on our cameras in their small water trough fishing, splashing, playing, and lounging about just as they would as cubs in the wild. Though the water trough is small, we believe this access to water has prevented them from becoming bored and exhibiting behaviors, like pacing, that would indicate stress due to being held in captivity. Like any young and vibrant mind, all creatures need to be stimulated mentally and physically to grow and become independent. In our new Apex Predator Enclosure, we need to build a water feature that would mimic water sources found in the wild.
Phases 6 - Mountain Lion Enclosure will be a specialized portion of the project that suits the amazing skills a mountain lion has to jump up to 15 ft vertically and will prevent escapes.
Phase 7 - Isolation Area for Disease Control will create specialized enclosures to care for patients with potential diseases or life threatening injuries.
Phase 8 - Fire Proof Den House will house bears during emergencies when evacuation options are limited and will keep staff safe during assessment of bears in care for treatment and return to the wild.
Phase 9 - Perimeter Fencing will complete the APE enclosing all the rehabilitating animals in and unwelcomed guests out.
Any contribution that can help us get to our final goal is going to directly impact the lives of bears and mountain lions in need of care for years to come. With your help, we know this dream can become reality.
While the scope of work can be broken down into phases, writing it so succinctly doesn't paint a full picture of the countless hours and wonderful professional partnerships that have worked together to get to our groundbreaking. We've put together a photo diary of some of our favorite moments in this process!
1st Staff APE Planning