City Wildlife opens in D.C.

A squirrel is fed at City Wildlife. (Photo: Mary Kay Mallonee)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The District's first ever wildlife animal care center, City Wildlife, opened in Northwest just a month ago and already it is packed with tiny patients.

A hummingbird that was attacked by a cat. A white dove released at a ceremony and found later starving to death on the streets of Georgetown. And, 30 baby squirrels found abandoned in different nests.

"Right now a majority of our patients are these baby squirrels. Some are orphans or were injured when they came in," said staff veterinarian Dr. Erica Eads, as she cradled a five-week-old squirrel in the palm of her hand and fed it special formula through a syringe. "They get pretty happy about it and it's pretty constant. It's multiple feedings per day for these guys."

Then, she checked on one of the center's tiniest and most rare patients, a three-week old black squirrel.

"What's nice about these guys is you can see when they've eaten last because their bellies are kind of transparent," said Eads, taking the curled up creature out of the center's incubator. "You can see he just ate and he's got a nice full belly."

At the center right now there are also three opossums and numerous wild birds, including a momma mockingbird that was injured and her baby.

"And, then we got three more baby mockingbirds in and the momma mockingbird, she would take care of them and get them mealworms. She would kill mealworms for them and give them to them," said Dr. Eads.

The mission of City Wildlife began in 2008 in response to a problem. Until now the closest wildlife care center was an hour away.

Wildlife President, Anne Lewis, said, "So, all of the animals that DC animal control was picking up all these years would be sent to Gaithersburg and many of them did not make it because the drive was too long."

Now DC wildlife found injured, sick or abandoned can be brought to City Wildlife - which is funded by private donations - and nursed back to health with oxygen therapy, an incubator, a fully-stocked pharmacy and a facility that is staffed 365 days a year.

The goal is to rehabilitate the animals to the point it is safe to release them back in to the wild.

Citizens are also permitted to bring wild animals in to the center.

But, right now City Wildlife does not accept rabies-prone animals including foxes, raccoons, skunks, bats and coyotes. The center also does not accept deer because they are too big.

Next year the District will begin partially funding operations at the center, with $200,000 budgeted in 2014.