Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center begins RFP process for new location

Leonardo during a check-up at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (file photo)

Following a public legal battle to remain open last year, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is now eying expansion of its facility and educational services, due to increased popularity.

The growth could result in a move for the center to another part of the Valley following the initial request for proposals with other locations.

The wildlife center is in the RFP process with three possibilities — a variety of sites in Maricopa County, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and a municipality that is not Scottsdale — to expand its facility.

Located just south of Rio Verde Drive and east of Scottsdale’s 136th street boundary, the 10-acre sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates wildlife that has been injured, displaced, and orphaned.

Linda Searles

The facility opened in 1994 after SWCC Executive Director Linda Searles encountered an orphaned coyote pup. There were no veterinaries who would treat an orphaned or injured wild animal, and thus the need for the specialty rehabilitation center was realized.

It is now known as one of the leading wildlife sanctuaries and rehab facilities in the southwest.

It houses a variety of animals including: six black bears, two bob cats, two coyotes, one jaguar, one javelina, 13 Mexican Gray Wolves and seven mountain lions.

“We’re in a more remote area now,” said Ms. Searles, in a Feb. 24 phone interview. “We’re kind of limited to how many people we can have on our tour, and we want to offer more public education.”

Due to complaints and a lawsuit with a nearby neighbor in spring 2016, the SWCC was thrust into the public eye when it fought to be granted a special use permit to continue operating.

The problem with the neighbor resulted in a worldwide petition, and support from local dignitaries including Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri and Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane.

The awareness has caused a desire for more foot traffic and more demand of services.

“The exciting thing is these are all in areas we wouldn’t have close neighbors,” Ms. Searles said. “Nobody would be complaining.”

Additionally, the center wants to continue and expand its educational services. One specific area the executive director wants is an air conditioned classroom.

“If we had a place that has air conditioned classrooms we could do camps throughout the year,” she said. “And just to expand our educational footprint and reach more children and adults.”

A redevelopment would allow for additional tours, year-round camps and events that would help fund SWCC.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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