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Animal Lover Gathers the Wounded and the Weak


No living thing is too big, too small, too slimy, too ugly, or too smelly. If it flies, crawls, slithers, hops, swims, or walks on four legs and is in need of help, Bob Farner will be there.

Bob Farner's Wildlife Rescue and Education Center, newly located on 3 acres in Valley Center, was established in 1980 primarily for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals. Another, equally important goal of the organization is educating the public about wildlife preservation.

"We've become so far removed from nature that we've come to fear it," Farner says. He wants people to realize that animals and birds will stand a much better chance of survival when people learn to adapt and share the environment with them.

"I think people who love and understand wildlife get along in life very, very well," Farner said, espousing his theory that this kind of sensitivity and wisdom fosters a sense of fulfillment that enriches everyday lives.

In an effort to introduce people to wildlife and individual animals, Farner takes wild animals into classrooms, hospital rooms and town halls.

A tour of his center's facility brings you face to face with a cougar named Sheba, a blind great blue heron known as Blue, and Flag, a mule deer, all permanent residents with no hope of returning to the wild.

As a young cub, Sheba was declawed by an exotic-animal dealer in Texas who sold her to a customer as a pet. Kept illegally, she was removed from that home at the age of 7 months and placed with Farner, who has cared for her over the last seven years.

Blue lost both eyes when the Carlsbad lagoon in which he lived grew polluted with toxins. Now he must be carefully hand-fed, a process he and Farner have perfected through trial and error.

Flag was rescued from someone who raised him and kept him confined to a small apartment. This robbed him of his wild instincts and rendered him incapable of survival outside of a captive environment.

Many of the animals are victims of Mother Nature herself. People bring in baby birds who have fallen from nests, orphaned animals whose mothers have either abandoned them or been killed, and many sick animals. Weather patterns, too, such as persistent drought, can wreak havoc on wild habitats.

The hapless victims of human ignorance are the ones that bother Farner the most.

"It preys on my mind, but I just have to forget it," he said. Incidents like these only serve to deepen his resolve to continue showing and telling.

He cautions people to use judgment when they come across an animal in need of help. To avoid hurting either themselves or the animal, Farner or an experienced volunteer will come out to remove a sick or injured critter, or relocate a healthy one that may pose a threat, such as a rattlesnake.

Farner has his finger on the pulse of the diverse San Diego County wildlife populations. Encroaching development has reduced the habitats of many animals, including the once plentiful deer whose reproduction is naturally regulated by the availability of habitat.

Certain barometers have already indicated seriously declining populations. For instance, this year the center has taken in 15 barn owls. This is down from 37 at this time last year and from the 100-plus the year before. No red-tailed or red-shouldered hawks have come in so far this year; they used to get as many as a dozen.

A nonprofit organization, the wildlife center has no paid employees and relies entirely on private donations. Volunteers contribute their time, knowledge and whatever else is needed--including food and medical care--for the animals .

Wildlife Rescue & Education Center

Valley Center

Call: 749-6737 or 724-6338. Keep calling; workers are often busy outside with the animals.

Or write: Bob Farner

1286 Oak Knoll Drive

Vista, Calif. 92084

Notes: Visitors are welcome; so are new volunteers.

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