Salem wildlife rehabilitation center loses state permit to bring black bear in


The Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center is seeking to reclaim its wildlife rehabilitation permit following the April incident, where director Jessy Gill admitted a sick black bear in the evening and didn’t notify state wildlife officials until the next day.

Black bear pug taken by the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center on April 1 (Photo from TRWC Facebook page)

As the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department said it was a rare decision, Salem’s local wildlife facility’s rehabilitation permit was revoked, putting pressure on similar facilities nearby.

The move comes after the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center took a black bear on April 1, after a power company employee found the animal in the Detroit area among the burn scars of last year’s devastating Santiam Fire.

TRWC has been rehabilitating injured or orphaned wildlife since it was founded in 2005. It was one of only two facilities allowed to rehabilitate wildlife in the Willamette Valley area, until its permit was revoked. The other facility in Corvallis, the Chintimini Wildlife Center, has been open since 1989.

TRWC chief Jessy Gill said she was told by fish and wildlife officials that she had violated part of her wildlife rehabilitation permit after she failed to report to the ODFW as soon as she brought the bear in.

ODFW sent Gill a notice stating that the agency plans to revoke her leave on April 23. Gill said his attorney missed the state deadlines to seek a hearing and forensic review, but he hired a new attorney to help him appeal the decision.

The permit was revoked on 10 June. Without it, the center cannot accept and rehabilitate wild animals.

Gill said the incident occurred when the worker noticed what appeared to be a small bear on the side of the road where he and his crew were working that day.

The worker told Gill that he had been watching the bear all day and that his mother had not come, so he called TRWC for help.

Gill said it was past 7 pm when the road worker brought the bear to the facility. The worker said he was still in TWRC when he brought the bear, which he said appeared to be in poor condition.

« I spent the rest of that evening working on stabilizing the pup, » she said. « His condition was really critical… He needed urgent care. »

Gill said the wildlife rehabilitation permit states that a black bear arriving at his facility must « immediately » report to the ODFW.

However, after staring at the bear all night and attending several meetings the next morning, Gill made contact with fish and wildlife officials but it wasn’t until noon the next day.

“I had a few meetings that morning, and as soon as I got out of it, I emailed ODFW and I think I called them around noon,” he said. « I couldn’t reach the biologist but left a message and then followed up with an email with all the information. »

The agency said in an email that TRWC violated one of the permit conditions when it let in a black bear and did not immediately notify fish and wildlife officials.

« Holding a bear is not only against the permit rules (which Turtle Ridge is not allowed to keep), but also risks making the bear a habit, » said ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy.

However, Gill and his supporters believe TRWC notified the state of the situation within a reasonable time and say it is an abuse of authority to revoke the agency’s leave.

While Dennehy didn’t measure what ODFW means by « immediately » reporting, he said the agency « does not provide regular out-of-hours staffing, but licensed wildlife rehabilitators will have the contact details of our local area wildlife biologists and are expected to let our staff know. » , even after working hours” as stated in the permit conditions.

« Our area wildlife biologists will make arrangements for existing staff to respond and will, at the very least, consult with our department veterinary staff and wildlife health laboratory to arrange a health and behavior assessment, » Dennehy said. Said.

After trying to reach ODFW, Gill said she needed to leave the wildlife center to pick up her daughter from work and help her son get ready for a soccer game later in the day.

Gill was out and when his son called from the house to say that an Oregon State Police officer was looking for him and the black bear at their home.

« ODFW hadn’t tried to reach me at that point, which usually doesn’t go that way, » Gill said of his experience. « Typically, they reply to me and arrange to send an ODFW staff member to pick up (an animal) and they need to send one of their veterinary staff with them. »

While Gill recounted the events of that day, ODFW said it could not comment in detail on the incident « due to pending litigation ».

He was euthanized at the end of the month.

« Seniors living in the wild are not suitable for captive facilities as they already have wildlife experience and do not perform well in the captive facility, » Dennehy said. Said. “While cubs are sometimes rehabilitated in permitted facilities … the risk of habituating an older bear is too great.”

Dennehy added that stout bears, as TRWC took it, « may continue to be a threat to humans because they lose their natural fear of humans during interactions at a rehab facility. »

« This mantle was too sick to regain his health, and he was emaciated – the normal mantle was between 30 and 90 pounds, while the bull was only around 10 pounds, which was proof that he was extremely unhealthy, » he added. « So it was humanely euthanized. »

TRWC supporters rally to get ODFW to change course and have Gill’s license reinstated.

Ben Thomas of Animal Conservation and Rehabilitation Network, a Portland-based nonprofit that supports wildlife conservation efforts, was one of five people who spoke during the public commentary period of the ODFW commission meeting in August to defend TRWC.

“TRWC not only serves the Salem area, it is the Portland area’s only full-of-kind center. “The center receives an average of 2,000 animals a year, mostly in the spring.” « When [ODFW] When she decided to suspend Jessy’s license, she effectively shut down TRWC just before the seasonal search flood, and it did so because of a technical detail. Therefore, most searches, roughly five times the actual intake, had to go elsewhere. »

Due to TRWC’s inability to accept wildlife, Thomas said other nearby facilities have become « burdened and overwhelmed ».

Sarah Spangler, executive director of the Chintimini Wildlife Center in Corvallis, said in a June newsletter that the facility has « exceeded patient capacity for the first time in its history. »

« With the recent closure of two similar organizations in the region (Chintimi), it is now struggling to meet demand on its own, » Spangler said. He described the facility as the last operational « all species » wildlife rehabilitation center in the Willamette Valley from Salem to Eugene.

While Spangler was not present at last month’s commission meeting, other wildlife rehabilitation supporters, including the Portland Audubon Association and Washington DC-based Animal Wellness Action representatives, spoke on behalf of Gill’s capabilities and the need for a rehabilitation center like TRWC in the area.

Scott Beckstead, an assistant animal law professor at Willamette University who also works as the campaigns director for Animal Wellness Action, said he disagreed with the ODFW’s decision to euthanize the black bear and criticized the agency’s treatment for wildlife rehabilitations.

“During the many years I worked in wildlife conservation, I heard from rehabilitation professionals about being bullied and mistreated by the ODFW,” Beckstead told the commission at last month’s meeting. « Instead of being backed by the agency, they live in constant fear that the slightest misstep will result in the loss of their licenses and possible criminal citations, as with the Turtle Ridge facility. »

But state wildlife officials disagree.

« ODFW appreciates the work that Oregon’s licensed wildlife rehabilitators do for wildlife and sees them as important partners in caring for sick and injured wildlife and returning them to the wild, » Dennehy said. « It’s important for rehabilitators to work in a variety of ways so that wildlife doesn’t ‘habituate’ to humans. »

Dennehy also has « a process for permit holders to appeal these decisions, » as ODFW’s decision to revoke Gill’s leave and TWRC’s leave is « rare. »

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