In the 1990s, a farmer accidentally ran over a coyote den, leaving only one pup alive. There were no vets that treated wild animals, but fate brought him to Linda Searles. She realized that a rehabilitation center for orphaned animals was a necessity. Searles bought ten acres of land in 1994 and founded The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center or SWCC.
As the years went by, other animals joined the coyote, whom Searles named Don. Most of those animals were released back into the wild. The rest were given a permanent home at SWCC. Don Coyote lived happily for more than 18 years at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.
This year, SWCC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. SWCC’s mission is to rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild. They have released over 70 percent of the animals they’ve rescued. If they are unable to release an animal, they give it a place to live at SWCC. SWCC also gives tours and educates people about what happens when wild animals are taken into human homes. Our tour guide at SWCC, Stephanie Dubois, showed us the non-releasable animals that have permanent homes at SWCC and told us their stories. They have tortoises, a mountain lion, javelina, red foxes, kit foxes, and Mexican gray wolves.
At SWCC there is a tortoise named Flip. He lives alone because he flips other tortoises onto their backs. Desert tortoises like Flip only drink water once a year, and a lot of it. If there is a tortoise around, don’t pick it up, because you may scare it. When desert tortoises are scared, they urinate all of their reserved water causing them to dehydrate. This is a big deal, because they only drink once a year, and you will hurt them, rather than help.
The mountain lion, Tocho, is short because his bones broke when he was very young. He was kept as a pet and didn’t get the proper diet. He ate cat food and hamburger meat. What Tocho really needed was things like whole chickens to get nutrients for his bones. He developed metabolic bone disease. He grew but his legs did not, and they couldn’t support his weight.
The javelina, Lucky, was kept as a pet by an elderly couple. He likes humans and doesn’t know that he’s supposed to live in groups with other javelinas. He developed a taste for chocolate and likes to sleep in his own dog bed. We watched Lucky pull a banana out of the peel and then eat the two parts separately. Javelinasare not actually pigs. They are more closely related to hippos then pigs.
SWCC’s website provides tips on how to scare away coyotes, javelinas and bobcats if they show up in your yard, and how to stay safe from rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. It is better to scare an animal away so that it can stay wild. Never feed wild animals, because this causes them to rely on humans rather than their own instincts.
SWCC is located at 27026 N. 156th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85262. If you need to call them for a wildlife emergency, their number is 480-433-5656. You can take your own tour by scheduling one through the Events Calendar on their website, southwestwildlife.org . They are open year-round for guided tours.