Holiday tradition returns as wildlife rehab center works on temporary location
OGDEN — A holiday tradition that world events had interrupted is returning to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah during a time of change for the center.
The center will be hosting Christmas for Critters from 1-6 p.m. Saturday at its longtime location at 1490 Park Blvd.
WRCNU Executive Director DaLyn Marthaler told the Standard-Examiner that the center is no stranger to celebrating the holidays with the public.
“This was an annual event for us until COVID and the bird flu hit, so we haven’t had this event for three years,” she said. “Because this is potentially the last Christmas in this building, we really wanted to have this event one last time. In the new facility, we won’t have the space to be able to host an event like this again, so we wanted to make sure that we had at least one last hurrah in here.”
Saturday’s event will include crafts, refreshments, a visit from Santa (2-4 p.m.), photos with birds and the premiere of a trailer for a documentary about the WRCNU.
Marthaler said that the event will be a fundraiser, but with the center moving to a temporary facility on Washington Boulevard, the money will largely be going toward bringing that new site to usability.
“Typically we call this ‘Christmas for Critters’ because it’s to help fundraise for the animals that are still in our care,” she said. “We have a few, but not a whole bunch, so it’s going to be partly for the critters and partly for the property that I’ve affectionately dubbed, ‘Pandora.’ Things like buying paint and cabinets. … It’s a fundraiser to help both with some of the critters that we have in our hands as well as help us expedite this move and get this facility ready.”
She said there’s a reason the new Washington Boulevard property has been dubbed Pandora.
“She just keeps on giving,” she said. “I rehab birds for a living, not old homes, so I have gone to the school of YouTube many times, so we’re getting close.”
Marthaler said the group is nearly ready to paint the temporary facility, but it will be some time before it can begin taking in animals for care.
“Once we get it painted, they’ll get the flooring down,” she said. “The property had to have remediation and so all of the flooring is gone, and the parts that didn’t need it is carpeted. We can’t rehab animals with carpet. The carpet will retain little particles that could have viruses and stuff on them. We have to be able to clean everything really well.”
She said once painting is done and flooring and cabinetry have been installed, it’ll be time to start caring for animals again.
However, given the temporary facility’s size, it will have several limitations.
“We can only operate at about 30% capacity at that property,” Marthaler said. “That means no aquatic animals — no beaver, no otter, no ducks, no geese, nothing that needs a large pool of water to be rehabilitated. If we don’t have use of our current property, the new property will not facilitate that.”
The WRCNU currently has until early March to vacate the current building.
She said, ultimately, more is needed to get to their goal — a forever home.
“This is going to be an incredibly expensive adventure for us,” she said. “The property that we’re moving into is temporary and everybody has to keep that in mind. … It’s going to be super important that we’re able to purchase property and build what we need, so that’s our end goal.”
In the meantime, Marthaler said it’s exciting to be able to bring back a holiday tradition even in the face of adversity that the group has faced the last few years.
“It’s been kind of sad not being able to have the public in our building and visiting with us,” she said. “It’s kind of like giving someone a hug after COVID. It’s just nice to open up, be able to have the public in here with us and feel the warmth and support.”