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After eviction notice, Ogden wildlife rehab center asks for more time

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah has called the former Carol Conroy Browning Animal Shelter home for 12 years. It was specifically designed for animal care and education
Buz Marthaler
Courtesy of the WRCNU
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah has called the former Carol Conroy Browning Animal Shelter home for 12 years. It was specifically designed for animal care and education

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah recently received a notice from the Ogden City Administration to vacate.

The city has initiated plans to demolish the building to expand the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park. The center has until Sept. 6, 2023 to find a new home.

Without a new facility, executive director DaLyn Marthaler said the animals in their care won’t have anywhere to go.

“Any animal that I’m holding as of the Sept. 6 deadline, if I don’t have legal status to hold them, I have to euthanize them.”

The center takes in as many as 4,000 animals annually, including 150 different avian species and small mammals. Most need assistance because of cat attacks, being hit by pellet guns and from well-meaning citizens who try to help animals they encounter. Marthaler said they also do outreach educational programs in schools and other venues.

Bald Eagle blood draw at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Courtesy of the WRCNU
A 2-year-old Bald Eagle gets a blood draw at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. It is being tested for lead and West Nile Virus. The center is volunteer-based and many volunteers are veterinary students.

The problem is both the wildlife center and Dinosaur Park are on city-owned land.

“When we originally signed our agreement with the city back in 2010, we were told that the agreement was a formality,” Marthaler said. “It would just be genuinely accepted that we just live here.”

Ogden City Council Chair Angela Choberka said they reviewed the written agreement during the April 4 council meeting and believe Mayor Mike Caldwell’s notice meets its terms. She also noted that the council received a lot of outreach from people expressing concerns about the eviction notice, but said “it’s the mayor’s sole discretion to grant any additional time.”

When Caldwell was asked about an extension at that meeting, he said he was “not prepared to make a commitment to that right now,” adding “we’re here to listen.” He did not respond to KUER’s request for comment.

Marthaler said it would take close to two years to go through the process of finding a new property, getting it commercially zoned, making sure the facility fits all the state and federal guidelines to be animal ready and getting the right facility permits.

Angela Horn, the executive director of the nonprofit Dinosaur Park, said the park board has offered to help the wildlife center find a place to relocate since they don’t have a say in the extension. But the park also needs to expand.

“It is my belief that we both need an opportunity to succeed,” she said.

Part of the wildlife center property will be converted to maintenance buildings for the park. Horn said they plan to build a “hatchery” where they can partner with local artists and universities to create dinosaur art installations. This will be in addition to the Ogden Natural History Museum and the Steward Museum of Paleontology that they have on their grounds.

There are also plans for a new parking lot, which Horn said would keep their visitors safe. The parking they do have is often full and people have to park on a narrow street.

“That’s caused a lot of problems, especially with our bigger events in the evening time when it gets dark, is that it’s just not safe,” she said.

In the meantime, members of the community have been calling on the mayor to extend the time the wildlife center has to vacate. The busy season is coming up; Marthaler said 79% of its “patients” arrive between April and September.

“We need support in a big way. We need our community behind us more than ever.”

Kristine Weller is a newsroom intern at KUER. She’s only been a journalist for a year but is excited to see what the future holds.
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