WILD FELID ADVOCACY CENTER OF WASHINGTON
January 14, 2012
This facility has been built up from almost nothing to become a compassionate sanctuary for 35 wild cats, animals that could not survive in the wild. We moved from a tiny facility in Olympia, WA, to our present 27 acre home on Harstine Island, WA, the last cat's being transferred just before Christmas, 2010. From Hannah the cougar to the tiny Gordon's cats, each animal is cared for as an individual being, with any special needs met, whether veterinary or diet. These cats come to us from many different situations. Some are traumatized. Hannah was captured at 6 months old, when her mother was killed by a car; her sibling was never found. Two African wildcats spent their early lives living in "bird cages," on display. Some are former pets who have been surrendered, sometimes by loving owners, who can no longer care for them for various reasons. The happiness and well-being of each cat is important at Wild Felids. We have no paid staff--all are volunteers. For Shelleen and Mark Mathews, the proprietors, this is a 24/7 commitment. Extremely dedicated, the Mathews have worked untiringly to obtain donations and grants to build suitably large enclosures for the cats that will spend their entire lives with us. For some of the cats, these natural enclosures, filled with native plants and trees, climbing platforms, warm and dry shelters, and room to romp and hide, are the largest areas they have ever had in which to live and enjoy their lives. We still have a dozen or more such enclosures to fund and build, a never-ending project, and more calls for cat sanctuary come in regularly. However, even the temporary holding pens are spacious compared to what many of these cats have previously lived in. All are extremely secure, ensuring the safety of people and cats. I am an active volunteer as well as a Board member. My specific contribution is volunteer training. However, everybody gets their hands dirty at WFAC. I have hauled and spread cedar chips and straw for these enclosures; separated and prepared donations of meat for daily feeding; cleaned water buckets, clearing them of any ice formation; picked up poop and changed bedding. We have experimented with various forms of enrichment to keep the cats active and content. (It was especially delightful to discover that Hannah, our cougar, loves watermelon and will bat a 30 pound melon around her enclosure like a basketball, and then suddenly grab it, sink her fangs into it, carrying it about, before finally, splitting it open to enjoy the sweet juicy treat, the red melon innards dripping down her muzzle and off her chin.) One of the missions of Wild Felids is the education of the public as to the importance of these animals in our world, including children: Note the Kids 4 Wild Cats program on the website. The Mathews continue to work toward that goal, developing and planning various workshops and seminars, that will teach Washington residents how to exist safely with wildlife, necessary information for people in this area who constantly face potentially frightening wildlife encounters. Shelleen also serves as a consultant for Sheriffs, Animal Control Officers, Firemen and other persons in authority, called on for her expertize and help, whenever needed. WFAC offers internships for college students who are working in appropriate majors. We just had another Evergreen student complete a successful study toward her degree last fall. There are educational opportunities for various youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts and others who earn credit for badges. I first learned about WFAC about three years ago, when I saw a news story on TV, when Shelleen was asking for donations to help them send two Siberian Tigers to sanctuary. WFAC could not at that time offer the tigers a home, and so they took it upon themselves to make certain these beautiful cats were cared for in another facility. The welfare of such cats is a heart felt commitment for the Mathews and they have been instrumental in relocating large cats to other appropriate facilities, when they do not feel that our Harstine Island facility can accommodate these animals. Finally, WFAC annually sets up a partnership with an international refuge and/or rehab organization, helping to raise awareness of endangered species the world over. This year it is the endangered Scottish Wild Cat that has received our support. There are presently only 400 Scottish wild cats surviving in the wild. Such international support creates a communicative community and good will that can only benefit everyone: both Scotland and the U.S.A., the people and certainly, the animals. I can think of no constructive feedback for WFAC. I have only admiration for both Shelleen and Mark, and this incredible endeavor that demands so much from them. The Mathews listen to all suggestions, and encourage all volunteers to share their ideas, with the objective to have us work in areas that use our talents and skills to benefit WFAC, from creating hand made items to sell in our booth at various community events, washing cars, or hosting larger benefits to developing advertising strategies, educational programs or website features. There is a sense of teamwork. While there is always a bit of stress with the ongoing effort to raise money in these very hard times, there is always laughter and a sense of fun. WFAC is a compassionate sanctuary. Many of the cats come to us well adjusted and settle in quickly to their new lives. But, there also is the undescribable joy of watching a terrified, grieving or depressed wild cat, slowly but surely become the confident and magnificent being it was meant to be, and join the other felid residents as an abassador for its species, teaching people how important it is to allow these cats to survive and thrive in the wild.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
Seeing the incredible growth and upgrade of the facility within such a short time, less than two years.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
I honestly do not know.
Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?
How much of an impact do you think this organization has?
Will you tell others about this organization?
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
How did you learn about this organization?
Covered in the essay above.
What is this organization's top short-term priority?
Complete the sanctuary areas with large and natural enclosures for every cat; raIse money for this project and increase our contact with the public in educational ways, workshops, seminars, etc.
What is its top priority in the long run?
Eventually, years from now, probably, to become a rehabilitation facility as well as a sanctuary. This would include a variety of animals, but begin with local area wildlife, particularly, lynxes, bobcats and cougars.
Board Member & I am a Board member who contacts potential and regular volunteers for training and for work assignments. I covered other tasks I do in the above essay.