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DaLyn Erickson: WRC Wildlife Specialist
Aug 28, 2009 | 9525 views | 308 308 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DaLyn Erickson working <br>with a Harris’s Hawk
DaLyn Erickson working
with a Harris’s Hawk
slideshow
DaLyn Erickson, Wildlife Specialist and Executive Director, is the core of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah (WRC), the catalyst that motivates a group of energetic and passionate wildlife volunteers to sacrifice for a mission and vision they all believe to be very important.

With this comes huge concern for the ability of WRC to keep going at the pace required by the northern Utah communities it serves. DaLyn is not “bullet proof” and has been without income to pay her bills since losing her job at the Ogden Nature Center in June when they canceled their wild bird rehabilitation program. WRC and DaLyn need the help of an ‘Angel Donor’ to truly get their feet under them and grow their fledgling organization into the world-class organization they envision.

An Angel Donor would allow WRC to be free of the financial worries and stresses of never knowing when or if they (DaLyn) will reach the breaking point; it would allow them to breathe a little easier and concentrate on caring for and releasing their wild patients without the concern of what might be lingering just around the corner.


( A multi-tasker, DaLyn saves hundreds
of birds over the phone while feeding
the hungry mouths in her hands)


DaLyn Erickson was born with the “hands of an angel” and has been in the bird business for more than 20 years. She started out as a young girl caring for injured and orphaned birds, bunnies, etc…hiding them under her bed so her mother wouldn’t find them. Her first pet bird was a parakeet she bought in order to save it from a young boy that was allowed to mistreat it. Her love of parakeets persists to this day because of that first rescued bird. She started breeding cockatoos and other birds early on, but realization of what the breeding business was all about became apparent very quickly. It was no longer the fun and romantic endeavor she had envisioned. Breeder birds were not pets (they needed isolation from humans to breed) and there were more birds needing good homes than there were good homes for all the birds bred for captivity. It turned out that breeding birds for profit was not in DaLyn’s soul.

Instead of breeding, DaLyn realized that education and training of birds and their owners and potential owners was what interested her; training people in the realities of keeping birds as pets—teaching them that it was not all fun and games and in fact it was a huge lifelong responsibility. She made a transition from breeding to teaching behavior modification of birds and their owners.

In 2001, DaLyn took on a job at the Ogden Nature Center (ONC) as the director of raptor care (25 hrs per week). The ONC director mentioned in passing that they also did rehabilitation. She picked up on rehabilitation very quickly, using knowledge gleaned from parrot breeding and raising hatchlings previously thought impossible to hand rear. (She worked front desk receptionist during the winters). In 2003, she started working in rehabilitation and raptor care as a full-time position.

( Training an osprey to the glove
during her first years as a handler,
trainer and rehabilitator)
DaLyn was mostly self-taught, modifying her parrot knowledge to relate to raptors and songbirds. She learned some raptor handling techniques from another local rehabilitator and a friend who was a falconer. With this training she managed to train ONC resident birds that had previously been used only as display animals to travel to programs and give public performances. Even with the meager allowance given to cover the costs of operating, DaLyn quickly grew a credible program respected by her rehabilitation peers and the local Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS).

Working out of a 300 square foot shack with a leaking roof, no running water, inadequate cooling in the hot summer months and the only heat during the winter months from a small space heater, DaLyn continued to improve on this underfunded rehabilitation program. Her pay for most years was under $20,000 per year and she worked 7 days a week, 365 days a year ensuring the health and care of resident and wild rehab birds.

During the summer months in what she dubs “baby bird season” DaLyn would average no less than 14 hour days. On occasion she would arrive before 9:00 AM and not leave until 3:00 AM the next morning. Her dedication, passion and compassion seem to be a bottomless well. The only “vacation time” she allowed herself was a couple of hospital stays due to severe issues with her health (lung surgery and a heart attack due to stress). As the only paid employee for this position there was no one else to turn to in order to relieve the long days. Her “staff” was made up of an all-volunteer force of dedicated and passionate bird lovers, but no one had the knowledge or expertise to take on the work she did, and most had jobs and families to attend. DaLyn knew that if she took a day off for any reason—ill health or just to relax or take care of family and home—that birds would very likely suffer or even die and she would not and could not allow that to happen.

A couple bright spots in DaLyn’s life as ONC wildlife specialist would include the day the ONC Board of Directors voted to build a new Rehab facility in February of 2007 and then again in April of the same year when she finally received running water, a small sink and a 4 gallon hot water heater in the tiny facility. This last measure was intended to be a “stop-gap measure” to get the rehabilitation department through a period while it waited for the new facility to be funded and built.

With the “ups” came the “downs”…two years later, after no efforts to produce the promised facility, came the excruciating pain of the ONC Board of Director’s decision to close down the bird rehab facility completely. January 21st 2009, the board of Directors voted to close down the facility rather than take cost cuts across the board and left DaLyn and her dedicated volunteers nowhere to go…at least not without a lot of sacrifice and work.


( Assisting Dr. Folland with a pelican surgery)


Work and sacrifice was nothing new to this team led by DaLyn. The difference this time was that they were not just caring for sick, injured and orphaned birds, but now had to grow a new not-for-profit organization from the ground up, and they were given only 5 months to make it work.

The rest of “the story” can be found in the WebPages of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s website at www.wrcnu.org. The most important message right now is that of WRC’s Wildlife Specialist, its organizational future and their plight. DaLyn has not been employed for pay since June 30, 2009 when the ONC terminated her position “for economic reasons.” The WRC is currently too new and underfunded to employ Erickson. Employing their wildlife specialist is something the WRC Board of Directors considers “a must” in order for this organization to continue to grow and serve Northern Utah. WRC is doing everything it can in the short-term just to keep up with the birds’ needs. All costs (between $1,000 and $2,000 each month) are coming directly out of the pockets of its many volunteers, a few donors and founding members. To keep this very important organization moving and growing and to ensure its unique public service of rehabilitation and education are here in the future the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah needs the generous support of its northern community.

( Baby humming birds rescued from
an untimely tree removal)
(“Time to eat”—a baby screech owl
hatchling (released in 2009) in
DaLyn’s hands)
(Hand feeding “Crash” a golden
eagle and WRC celebrity)


Without Erickson and the WRC taking in everything from hummingbirds to eagles in quantities as high as 1,500 to 1,600 birds a year, most of these birds would be euthanized or suffer lingering deaths of pain and starvation. Please support Erickson and the WRC mission by donating today.
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“Man believes he must manage the wilderness for the wilderness’ sake. Wilderness: a perfect example of eons of successful self-management and yet man shall “manage” it to death.”
~Buz Marthaler~