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April 4, 2019

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center heals Fauquier animals

Contributed Photos
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Executive Director Hillary Davidson with Wisdom, a great horned owl.
It is very important for population reasons and mating reasons that we want to try to get that animal back where it came from.
— Center Executive Director Hillary Davidson
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center
• What: Non-profit organization that rescues injured or sick native wildlife, rehabilitates the animals and provides education and research.

• Where: 106 Island Farm Lane, Boyce, in Clarke County.

• Wildlife: Native birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

• Staff: 6 full-time employees and more than 30 core volunteers.

• Executive director: Hillary Davidson of Warrenton.

• Funding: About $460,000 a year, entirely from donations and grants.

• Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day

• Phone: 540-837-9000

• Facebook: Click here

• Website:
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
On a rainy day in late December, the Delaplane farmer spotted what appeared to be an injured barn cat sitting in a watery ditch.

“The cat was acting fairly unusual . . . and it growled at me,” recalled Matt Davenport, who found the wild cat on his family’s Hollin Farms.

After capturing the sick cat, feeding it and transferring the critter to a bigger carrier, “it had dried out and it didn’t really look like one of the barn cats at all,” Mr. Davenport said. “Sure enough, it was a bobcat.”

The 46-year-old quickly called Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, a Clarke County non-profit organization that cares for native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Several years ago, he had taken an injured great horned owl, which got tangled up in vegetable netting, to the wildlife center for care.

About five miles across the Fauquier line in Boyce, the center cares for injured, orphaned and sick wild animals, then releases them back into their habitat. In 2018, the center cared for 130 different species.

“We don’t charge fees,” BRWC Executive Director Hillary Davidson said. “We depend solely on the generosity of the community and the kindness of people who bring in patients and support wildlife.”

Last year the center treated 2,195 patients — a 20 percent increase from 2017.

Of those, 233 animals came from Fauquier County.

“We’re here for when you come across that injured animal,” Ms. Davidson said. “Call us and work with us to get that animal into care, if that’s what it needs.”

When an animal control officer brought the bobcat to the center, veterinarians determined it couldn’t see, probably because of head trauma. After five days of care, however, the bobcat fully recovered and responded to the staff.

In January, the BRWC staff released the bobcat near the apple orchard at Hollin Farms.

“It is very important for population reasons and mating reasons that we want to try to get that animal back where it came from,” Ms. Davidson explained.

The center gets busiest in spring and summer, when most wild animals reproduce.

The nonprofit’s staff each year answers at least 5,000 calls from people who have questions about injured wildlife.

“Educating the public, the young citizens on the importance of biodiversity of native habitats, the role each animal plays in the ecosystem” also represents part of the wildlife center’s mission, the executive director explained.

Students frequently visit the 8,000-square-foot center and observe “wildlife ambassadors” — animals taken there that no longer can survive in the wild — including a red-tailed hawk and corn snake.

“Unfortunately not all cases can be cured,” Ms. Davidson said. “It is our responsibility to euthanize patients that can’t survive. Most wild animals don’t do well in captivity.

“Our mission is to care for native species. It’s a state regulation that if an invasive species comes to us, we have to euthanize it.”

Ms. Davidson, who lives near Warrenton, routinely rescues and transports injured patients to the wildlife center.

With the passion to “do more stuff to help animals,” Ms. Davidson a dozen years ago started rescuing critters and volunteering at the Virginia Wildlife Center in Waynesboro.

“I would drive down every other weekend and spend Saturday and Sunday there, get a hotel room and volunteer the whole weekend.”

In 2010, she started volunteering at BRWC and served three years on its board.

After more than three decades in information technology jobs, Ms. Davidson started her second career as BRWC’s executive director in 2017.

A state-certified wildlife rehabilitator, Ms. Davidson on Wednesday morning rescued a bald eagle with bone fractures and lead poisoning, found along Route 29 near Remington. The center’s staff believes a vehicle hit the eagle.

About 95 percent of the center’s patients suffer injuries that humans cause.

With an annual budget of $460,000, the non-profit organization has six full-time employees. More than 30 volunteers help feed and care for animals throughout the year.

“They bring beauty to the world,” Ms. Davidson said of wild animals. “It’s one thing to think of no insects, but we have lots of birds that eat only insects. To think about the loss of the warblers and bluebirds . . . that isn’t a good picture for me. I want to keep them around.”

Mr. Davenport agrees.

“When you do come across these animals that are worth saving, it’s nice to have someone nearby willing to do it who has the time and expertise,” he said.

Contract Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.
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