Wildlife Science Center "Move The Pack" FAQ
2.1) Operations building dispute
2.2) The DNR’s alleged lease violations
2.3) How long does WSC have to move?
2.4) What does the DNR mean when they say that WSC could “come into compliance” with the terms                   of the lease, at which time they’d suspend the lease termination notice?
3.1) WSC's new home
3.2) How much will the move cost?
4.1) Quality of animal care
4.2) Moving the animals
5.1) Events, programs, and tours
6.1) Contact your legislators
6.2) Monetary donations
6.3) Gift cards
6.4) Become a Friend of the Wildlife Science Center
6.5) Spread the word
1.1) History: In 1976, the DNR granted permission to the federal government to establish a wolf research facility. The project spanned 15 years, and became the place that all field techniques and handling processes were first tested, on captive wolves, before being implemented on critical wild populations. Peggy Callahan and co-biologist Mark Beckel joined the team in 1985. When the federal funding ran out in 1990, these two and Dr. Terry Kreeger received permission from the DNR to stay on the land, and followed a dream of creating a “living classroom”-a place where real science and education become paired. The “Wolf Project” became a 501©(3) non-profit organization called the Wildlife Science Center.
1.3) Conservation: Captivity provides a safe arena where endangered animals can reproduce without encountering some of the problems inherent to living in the wild (i.e. human-caused mortality: shooting, trapping, poisoning, or accidents involving vehicles or; natural mortality: disease, starvation, interspecific strife and intraspecific strife). It allows for research to better understand the needs of the endangered species and provides a safe haven to safeguard their small gene pools. It also allows for the wolves to become ambassadors of education which provides unique opportunities for those people who want to learn.
1.4) Training: The WSC offers hands-on training to field professionals, animal control officers, veterinary technician students, zoo professionals, wildlife managers, and students in wildlife / veterinary related backgrounds. The three and four day courses offer wildlife chemical immobilization training that focuses on the needs of wildlife researchers and managers. It emphasizes practical and professional equipment and techniques for organizing and conducting field operations with either physical restraint or chemical immobilization.
1.5) Research: The animals at the WSC provide opportunities for study by scientists from many walks of life. High school and college students use them to learn observation techniques, and hone their understanding of scientific method. WSC staff assist students with the hypothesis, methods, and presentation of results.
2.1) Operations building dispute: The DNR began their attack on WSC in early December 2015 when they tried to condemn the small utility building we have used for office and security space since before our beginnings, when the facility was run by the federal government. In a series of 6 different visits, the building was inspected by a state building official, electrical inspector and the state fire marshal, as well as an independent building consultant. It is worth noting that in the 20+ years we have leased from the DNR, they have never performed a single inspection. No inspector could find sufficient cause to condemn the office building. Regardless, the DNR insists the building is unsafe, and after our attorney stopped them from condemning the building, they served us with an eviction notice, giving us 6 months to vacate the property.
2.2) The DNR’s alleged lease violations: When the DNR refers to lease violations, they are specifically referring to allegations that WSC was subletting on their property without permission, breaking building codes, and using the center as a shelter for potentially dangerous dogs. All of these allegations are false.
- Subletting: There has been on on-site resident caretaker/security person since 1983 when the utility building was used by the federal government as part of the federally funded “Wolf Project.” This overnight caretaker has been employed to ensure security of the compound and the safety of the animals. The caretaker is the first responder in the event of any emergency imaginable. During the entirety of WSC’s existence, an overnight caretaker has been on-site. The DNR was fully aware of this arrangement. In fact, one of our previous caretakers was concurrently employed by the DNR. Our most recent overnight caretaker was evicted by the DNR in late November, being given only 24 hours to clear out.
- Breaking building codes: No code violations have ever been specified by the DNR, despite six separate inspections. One of these inspectors was from the State Fire Marshall’s office, and he found no code violations. He looked at all of the wiring, most of which are low voltage cables for our computers. He had no problem with them, and had nothing to say about ammonia. The DNR also asserts that we made unauthorized changes to the building. These changes include removing the wood-burning stove, changing windows, and cutting a dog door. However, the wood-burning stove is still installed, and has never been removed. The windows are unchanged. The dog door was cut during federal days, before the DNR took control of the building. On one hand, we are not allowed to make changes, but on the other, we are criticized for not maintaining it.
- Potentially dangerous dogs: WSC has never been shy about letting visitors know that we regularly have dogs on the premises. None of these dogs are a danger to the public. The dogs are a unique kind of employee, serving as enrichment for our animals. These working dogs encourage our animals to exercise natural behaviors, such as territorial defense and prey-stalking. This not only keeps our animals mentally stimulated, but it encourages them to spend more time near the front of their habitats, ultimately making them more comfortable in that portion of their enclosure and more easily viewed by visitors. While it is true that many of these dogs are rescues, none of them live at the Center; they are pets of the staff and volunteers. The non-profit Home At Last Animal Sanctuary is not housed nor operated here.
- Late rent payments: WSC has been leasing our land since 1991, and unfortunately, we have made a few late rent payments. However, this has been tolerated by the DNR, and never has WSC been told that a late payment would be cause for lease termination.
2.3) How long do we have to move? The eviction notice from the DNR gives us 6 months (beginning January 2016) to vacate. The timeline that the state has forced upon us is unrealistic, and their claims unsubstantiated. We hope to raise awareness of our dire need for funds, materials and marketing. The current lease originally ran through March 2017. We are asking that the DNR suspend the lease termination notice, and allow us to stay until the original lease elapses, giving us more time to gather the necessary funds and complete the building process.
2.4) What does the DNR mean when they say that WSC could “come into compliance” with the terms of the lease, at which time they’d suspend the lease termination notice? In order to be fully in compliance with the DNR’s terms, WSC would have to vacate our utility building. This building houses our offices and animal diet preparation areas. With nowhere else to perform these fundamental activities, vacating this building would essentially kill our organization. The DNR has not offered to provide us with any type of substitute for this utility building, and not one of six different inspections uncovered any safety hazards that would justify vacating it.
3.1) WSC’s new home: The WSC owns land in northern Anoka County, purchased with the intent of making it our permanent home. At this point, no one wants to sever ties with the DNR more than WSC. However, the recession dealt WSC a nasty blow, and to add insult to injury, most folks believe that WSC is funded by the state because of our location. The funds to move simply haven’t been available. As soon as funding is secured, we will begin construction.
3.2) How much will the move cost? We estimate that focusing on the bare minimum, just to safely move all of our animals and continue our programing, will cost ~$500,000. In addition to providing enclosures for all of our animals, infrastructure to sustain day-to-day operations also needs to be built, including a classroom where we can continue the critical education work we’re known for, and a road to access the new facility. This estimate does not include several of the improvements we had hoped to make at the new site, such as a full-scale visitor center and intern housing.
4.1) Quality of animal care: Animal care has always been a top priority for WSC staff and volunteers. The eviction and move process doesn’t have anything to do with the animals, and no concerns have been raised about the quality of our animal care. Our facility is regulated at a federal level and any issues with animals comes directly from the USDA. WSC has consistently passed USDA inspection since our inception. The issues we are battling now are strictly landlord to tenant complaints.
4.2) Moving the animals: The property owned by the WSC in northern Anoka County is not ready for a full-scale move. Secure enclosures need to be constructed before the animals at the Carlos Avery location can be relocated. The fencing at the current location cannot simply be relocated; it loses structural efficiency when torn down and rebuilt.
6.1) Contact your legislators: Go HERE to find government representatives you can contact, such as your state senator, representative, or local council member. To find those directly involved with our area, use our address: 5436 W. Broadway Ave, 55025. We need more than 6 months to make a safe move. Ask your legislators to have the DNR repeal the eviction, allowing us to stay through the end of our lease in March 2017.
6.2) Monetary Donations: Our move is inevitable, and you can help by donating toward our $500,000 goal. Though the circumstances are unfortunate, this is a great opportunity for WSC to grow bigger, better, and stronger. Donate specifically toward our move HERE, or through paypal HERE. We also have a need for services and time.
6.4) Become a Friend of the Wildlife Science Center: Friends of the Wildlife Science Center is a community of individuals, organized through Facebook, that are dedicated to supporting WSC in any way possible. This includes donating time, money, talents, materials, and/or doing their best to raise awareness about who WSC is and what we do. By "Liking" the Facebook page and signing up for their email list, you can stay informed on what you can do to help WSC meet their $500,000 moving goal by the deadline. Watch for updates on building materials needed, proposed volunteer projects, and political action that can be taken.
6.5) Spread the word: Please ask everyone you know to become familiar with our mission and plight. The more people we have engaged, the more likely it is that we will be able to meet our fundraising goal and get our animals to their new home. You can share our donation links (https://www.givemn.org/project/provide-a-new-home-for-wsc568ef1ab558a5) or our website (http://www.wildlifesciencecenter.org/). “Like” our Facebook page to stay current on what we’re doing to raise awareness, such as asking supporters to change their profile picture in support of the WSC.