By Melissa Wynn
Photos Courtesy of Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation
Close contact with wildlife is an exhilarating experience that reinforces our connection to nature in a way that little else can. Whether it is a lucky raccoon sighting in your own backyard or a paid dolphin experience abroad, you are sure to remember these rare, face to face encounters for years to come.
At the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, in Butte County, the staff understands the importance of these lasting connections and has implemented a new opportunity for visitors to interact with the baby animals that occasionally come to them for monitoring, veterinary care and training. For a modest $35 fee, a guest can now get a photo with these precious ambassadors as a memento of their visit to this special forever home for so many animals that can never be released due to medical, genetic or developmental issues. These are NOT typical animals, each has a special need that brought them to this “last resort” facility.
Unlike a zoo or text-book sanctuary this loving facility’s purpose is to rescue and then provide rehabilitation and long term care for both native and exotic wildlife. The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation does NOT breed animals and no babies are born there. Often they are sent from other facilities for simple observation to determine if they have any pre-existing conditions or health issues that would either prevent their release or inhibit their main facility’s ability to provide them with the proper care they might require.
Those baby animals that cannot be released and are not at risk from any health issues offer a very brief window of time in which they may be introduced to the public under specific and stringent Federal and State guidelines. Any public contact, such as posing for these wonderful photos with humans is closely regulated and monitored to insure the safety of the animal as well as the human visitor.
As their baby animals cannot be handled past the age of 16 weeks, photo opportunities will depend on availability at the time of your request. During our visit a European Brown Bear cub was the current ambassador, replacing an adorable tiger cub that had recently “aged out” of the program. Holding a bear cub in your arms is an unforgettable and irreplaceable experience.
The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation is a non-profit, State of California certified educational facility. All staff members are either volunteers or college interns earning up to 15 transferable credits. There are no paid salaries. The entire facility is funded by grants and donations from caring individuals like you and me. All proceeds from the photos with the babies help to fund veterinary costs, construction projects and the astronomical feeding costs associated with 600 pounds of food consumed on site every day. Three shifts provide 24 hour care and cleaning services to the animals.
If you would like an up close and personal encounter with a baby from the wild visit the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation Tuesday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Self guided walks through are $10 for adults and $6 for kids 3-16, Infant-2 are free. Guided tours are available by appointment only and cost $20 for adults and $10 for kids 3-16, Infant-2 are free. Interested in taking a school field trip to visit the animals? K-12 tours happen all year long. Call +1530.533.1000 for more information on tours and current baby species. Visit online to donate, volunteer, check out their wish list and read the bios on each animal that calls this sanctuary in rolling hills home. www.kirshner.org.