If you were confronted with the chirping, hungry mouth of an abandoned baby swallow, the wary face and perky ears of an orphaned fox kit or deceptively cute fuzziness of a motherless baby raccoon, chances are pretty good you would be moved to help them.
And that’s certainly true of the mostly volunteer staff at Chintimini Wildlife Center, a nonprofit organization on Lewisburg Road that rehabilitates orphaned and injured animals.
Lately, the center has been dealing with an influx of animals from the Eugene area for about a month, following the closure of the Willamette Rehabilitation Center.
Mary Estes, Chintimini’s rehabilitation director, said May to September is the busy season for Chintimini, and the organization typically takes in five to 10 animals a day during that time. The animals coming in from Eugene have nearly doubled the intake rate, Estes said.
“It’s not like we have a choice,” she said. “There’s no where else for them to go. It’s either leave them to die or send them out for untrained people to care for.”
Estes said Chintimini typically has around 10 volunteers working every day on alternating shifts, which can be very intense. Some animals, such as baby birds, need feeding every 15 minutes or so.
“Everyone’s sweating, feeding, medicating and cleaning these animals,” she said.
The influx of animals comes at a tricky time, Estes said, because many of the organization's volunteers are college students who have gone home for the summer.
Estes said last year Chintimini took in 1,500 animals. This year, it's on pace to easily surpass that: As of Monday it already had received nearly 1,000 animals this year.
“Obviously we’re flying through our budget,” she said.
Just buying insects to feed baby birds takes thousands of dollars each year, she said. Estes said the center always needs donations and volunteers.
The Eugene rehabilitation center has closed over permitting issues, said Sarah Spangler, Chintimini's associate director. She said she hopes the Eugene shelter is able to reopen soon, but doesn't know if that will happen.
Willamette Rehabilitation Center’s public phone number went unanswered Monday afternoon and the center’s voicemail box was full.
Until the Eugene shelter reopens, Spangler said, Chintimini’s staff will continue to both rehabilitate animals and educate the public on living with wildlife.
“We provide a service to the animals in the mid-Willamette Valley, and a lot of Oregon, but we also provide a service to people. People’s lives are enlivened by animals.”