The New Mexico Wildlife Center reopened to the public on Saturday after the pandemic forced it to close.
For more than a year, the nonprofit of Española has been unable to organize educational tours for families, schools or anyone seeking a chance to see local wildlife up close, said Jessica Schlarbaum. , site manager and coordinator of the organization’s volunteers.
Now that the center has reopened, “people can get up close to wildlife they would never see up close in the wild and really appreciate the little behaviors they see or the beauty of the individual,” he said. she declared. “Our hope is that they then strive to bring this to other people and become responsible stewards of the environment.”
A total of 39 “animal ambassadors,” including bobcats, coyotes, bald eagles and a variety of snakes, can be found at the center. Animal Ambassadors often cannot be released into the wild due to permanent injury or adaptation to humans, Schlarbaum said.
The center hopes to improve the emotional connections people have with wildlife through education and awareness.
The association has been trying to connect people with nature for over 30 years. As visitors return to the center, new executive director Matthew Miller hopes to inject new energy into the organization’s efforts.
Miller joined the association a month ago after spending time in the Southeast developing outdoor education centers. He hopes to use his knowledge to help raise awareness and interest in the work of the wildlife center.
“I was looking for things that needed to be conservation related, had to have an educational channel, and had to have community service,” Miller said. “I had to tick all three boxes, and the New Mexico Wildlife Center definitely ticks those boxes.”
Saturday’s reopening brought local visitors and families to see what the center has to offer. Some who had lived in the area for years were visiting the center for the first time.
Carrie Frias brought her three young children – Maceo, Ysabel and Emil – to the center to participate in a scavenger hunt.
“We haven’t really done much since COVID,” Frias said. “Just to hang out, it’s great. We’ve lived here for six years and have never been.”
While Frias’ children went out in search of lynxes, Doug and Laurie Larson were enjoying the day with their daughter. The three moved to Santa Fe six months ago and were looking for a way to see the wildlife up close.
“We saw that [event] posted on Nextdoor, “said Doug Larson.” We just moved here from Houston, TX and thought it would be a good idea to see what animals are native to the area. “
The center also functions as an animal hospital and a rehabilitation area for injured wild animals, Schlarbaum said. Visitors have the option of supporting the organization through volunteering, sponsorship or donations.
“We’re here, we’re open, and we’d love to see people stop by,” Miller said.