Sanctuary saves San Nicolas felines from certain death
Ramona’s Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has added 31 feral cats to its roster of critters to be cared for. The cats, rescued from San Nicolas Island about 60 miles off the Southern California coast, were transported to the center as part of an ongoing operation headed by the Humane Society of the United States.
According to the humane society, there are 100 to 200 cats living on San Nicolas Island, which provides nesting habitat for several native seabirds and shorebirds, as well as other threatened species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the feral cats were to be trapped and euthanized in an attempt to restore the native wildlife. When the humane society heard of the operation, it approached the government and offered a compromise—trap the cats and provide long-term sanctuary.
Working with the humane society, Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Navy decided to allow the society to trap the feral cats to save the healthy ones. According to the organizations involved, the capture and removal of the cats is the only way to allow the cats to survive while preserving the delicate ecobalance of the island.
“We don’t have any idea how many are coming,” said Cindy Traisi assistant manager of the wildlife rehabilitation center in Ramona. “It could be as high as a hundred or more. We won’t know until they have caught them all.”
Rescue efforts continue on behalf of the feral cats as a special agreement between the humane society and the federal government.
“We have to follow a pretty extensive biosecurity protocol,” said Traisi. “We are not allowed to accept cats off the streets—special permits had to be obtained in order for the cats to be brought here.”
The sanctuary houses predatory animals of various species, and also the “big cats,” such as bobcats, lions and mountain lions, said Traisi. If people began dropping off cats at the center, it is possible a disease could be passed to the rest of the wild population. Careless and unplanned introduction of cats into the sanctuary could have devastating affects. Extreme care has to be taken when working around the animals being rehabilitated, explained Traisi.
Since the island cats cannot be released back into the wild or “adopted out” to the public, Fund for Animals is working closely with Hurricane and Poway Fence Company to construct a 4000-square-foot permanent enclosure for the rescued cats.
The enclosure has to be “escape-proof,” with special netting over the top. It will be built around a stand of trees in an attempt to mimic the surroundings the cats have become accustomed to.
Special permission had to be obtained for the felines to be housed at the Ramona center.
“We are not licensed or normally allowed to take in cats,” said Chuck Traisi, center manager. “This is a wildlife rehabilitation center. Our goal at this facility is the care, rehabilitation and release of wild animals.”
The cats are wild cats that cannot be released to the general public due to constraints placed on the Ramona center by the government.
As Poway veterinarian Dr. Shayda Ahkami checks on the well-being of the cats, employees and volunteers mill about the 13 acres of what has become “home” to many exotic animals. Rescued from various neglectful or even abusive situations, there are mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, birds, a pygmy hippopotamus—and even an African lion named Sampson.
It is clear from the compassion shown by the people working at the center that these animals will never again have to suffer from the pain of abuse or neglect. Each animal has a story of some private sadness, but in the boundaries of the center off Highland Valley Road they matter.
Traisi said caregivers are needed at the facility to help with feeding and cleaning needs. Volunteers with experience in feral cat care are needed.
Interested parties may contact the humane society at 202-452-1100 or Fund for Animals directly at 760-789-2324.
To donate money in support of the animals at the sanctuary, send contributions to Fund For Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center; 18740 Highland Valley Road. Ramona, CA 92065-7104.
To learn more about the center, visit the Web site at www.fundwildlife.org.
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