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Scottsdale Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center seeks to ‘save wildlife one life at a time’

A baby racoon is held by staff at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center demonstrating the various degrees of care at work every day at the north Scottsdale wildlife respite. (Photos: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress.com)

Wildlife conservation effort expansion to be sought this fall

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

On 10 acres of land in north Scottsdale stands a testament to what many who call, “The West’s Most Western Town” home aspire toward — a grassroots conservation effort focused on the stewardship of the environment around it.

From the municipal efforts behind the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and hallmark greenbelt project of the 1990s to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, the community of Scottsdale is attune to the effect humans and their dwellings have on arid environments.

The physical testament of the ideas behind environment stewardship are embodied at collection of bunk houses converted from shipping containers and makeshift structures encasing a wildlife conservation center like no other.

The unwavering mission of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, which is a privately funded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, rescues and rehabilitates injured, displaced or orphaned wildlife in and around the greater Scottsdale community.

The No. 1 goal of the effort? To keep things the way they are and help wildlife thrive in urban environments.

“We never rescue an animal and hope they stay here forever,” Jamie Haas, education and marketing director at Southwest Wildlife, said on center grounds Friday, July 8. “Our goal, our mission is to save wildlife one life at a time.”

Since 1994, Ms. Haas explains, the conservation center has worked to provide a temporary sanctuary for animals local to the region.

“Portions of this property do have animals that cannot be released back into the wild,” she said pointing out a few older mountain lions who are permanent residents of the wildlife sanctuary.

“It can happen for a variety of reasons. They are either a protected species or a member of the sanctuary, but by and large the animals that are here are here temporarily.”

Ms. Haas explains animals atop the food-chain — an apex predator — that find themselves at Southwest Wildlife will likely live the rest of their days a part of the Sonoran Desert sanctuary.



“What we see here are typically native mammals like coyotes and bobcats, which are the most populous here in the Sonoran Desert,” she said noting last calendar year the center saw about 400 animals who needed rehabilitation. “There are a lot of variables but they often tend to get themselves in these situations. About 88% of the animals who don’t succumb to their injuries are released back into the wild after a full recovery.”

— Jamie Haas, education and marketing director



Walking the grounds of the conservation center, Ms. Hass, who took on the role of education and marketing director in 2020, points out the majority of work at the center is done through volunteerism, which allows for veterinarian experts to be on-site for medical procedures as needed.

“We are a nonprofit after all so we are primarily funded by grassroots support,” she said. “We have no government funding although we do participate in a federal conservation program for the Mexican Gray Wolf.

Ms. Haas explains Southwest Wildlife serves as a holding facility for the endangered wolf species as a member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan. Most recently two pups were born adding to the overall population of the wolf species.

And thanks to collaborations with Arizona Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the population of the Mexican Gray Wolf — North America’s smallest and most endangered — wolf has grown. Wildlife officials report the population has grown from 84 to 86 Mexican Gray Wolves now living in Arizona’s wild due to recent births of two pups on April 30.

Growing the effort in Maricopa County

For the past 12 years, Lyne Stone, animal care specialist, has been caring for injured animals that come to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in north Scottsdale.

“I moved here from Boston and I am in animal care. I started out as a volunteer about 12 years ago,” she said at the center while talking with the Arizona Digital Free Press. “Turns out, I would rather be with animals and scooping poop than people, most of the time. For me, it’s all about the animals.”

But make no mistake the position held by Ms. Stone comes with special circumstances that, at times, can be tough.

“I am a jack of all trades, you get to be there at the beginning and the end of their lives,” she said. “But I do feel like we are able to save more animals then ever before who are in distress. We don’t pull in every baby, and that is a credit to people learning and understanding how to live with wildlife.”

Ms. Stone reminds oftentimes wildlife is more scared of a human than a human should be of them and that has saved lives of urban wildlife.

“I have noticed more and more that people are doing the right things with wildlife,” she said. “We want to try and keep everything wild, wild. They are not as scary as people think they are.”

But as the ideas of wildlife conservation become more and more a part of the everyday nomenclature, Ms. Haas points out, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is on the precipice of a capital campaign.

“There is a capital project in the works,” she said. “In 2020, a timeline got signed that began a contract with Maricopa County for 15 acres in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Our capital campaign should begin in the fall. We are limited in our capacity to find more space and we don’t want to be the best-kept secret anymore.”

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