County Closes Bird Rehabilitation Program

Times Staff Writer

The bird rehabilitation program at Placerita Canyon Nature Center has been closed--at least temporarily--because it was devouring money intended for other programs, officials said Wednesday.

Diane Van De Water, the rehabilitation specialist running the program, left the center in mid-December after being told that unless private support could be found, she could only work three days a week, said Frank Hovore, natural areas administrator for Los Angeles County’s north region.

Hovore said that Van De Water, who could not be reached for comment, often worked more than 40 hours a week handling the many injured or sick birds brought in by area residents. She was assisted by the center’s supervisor and volunteers.

The bird rehabilitation program was funded by the county from a budget that supports recreation leaders for six northern nature centers and 11 wildlife sanctuaries, officials said.


$36,000 Budgeted

Hovore said that about $36,000 is budgeted in 1988-89 for recreation leaders at the 17 centers and sanctuaries. But Hovore said that while reviewing expenditures in November he discovered that the bird rehabilitation program at Placerita Canyon Nature Center had consumed at least $16,000 in only five months.

Recreation leader programs, such as nature hikes and educational talks, were being sacrificed to pay for the bird program, said Matt Kouba, nature center supervisor.

“In a sense, it was my fault because we did not have a firm budget and a lot of times in the past the budget has come in better than we thought,” Hovore said. “But once that all came in and we had a firm budget . . . I realized that at the present rate of expenditure we would be completely broke for the entire system by the month of February.”

Center volunteers said they hope that either private grants, donations or an increase in the amount of money the center receives from the county will allow the program to be resurrected.

“We’re hoping within two years, but it could be one year. It could be never,” said Linda Larsen, president of the center’s volunteer program.

Birds of Prey Added

The bird rehabilitation program, started five years ago, was expanded last year to include birds of prey, Van De Water’s specialty.

In November, Van De Water announced plans to expand the program for birds of prey with a cage for exercising the larger birds and possibly a surgical center. Larsen said volunteers helped purchase some smaller bird cages, a $400 microscope and several books to aid in bird diagnoses, but the expansion was never finalized.

State law dictates that only individuals licensed by the state Department of Fish and Game, like Van De Water, may care for birds. So for now, birds brought in by area residents are stabilized and then referred to one of two private rehabilitation specialists in the area, Hovore said.

The winter is typically a slow time for reports of injured birds, Kouba said. Busier times are the spring--when young birds are injured or kicked out of nests prematurely--and the fall, when birds are migrating.