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Donated trees help Sarvey Wildlife Center


Christopher Andersson

Suzanne West, executive director of Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, left, and staff rehabilitator Miki Forsberg carry a donated Christmas tree into bald eagle Wamble Askete's enclosure on Dec. 28.

Arlington's Sarvey Wildlife Care Center is helping to recycle Christmas trees and provide a better habitat for rehabilitating animals with their tree collection program.

"Every year we put out a call for people to donate their used Christmas trees so we can add them to our habitats for enrichment for the animals," said Suzanne West, executive director of the center.

This year the center has already received enough trees but West said she hopes people will think of them next year if they have a tree they need to get rid of.

The wildlife care center has been in the area since 1981 and gets about 2,000 animals a year that come in injured or orphaned.

"We try and get them over their illnesses, fix their injuries or rear them from being orphans, and release them back into the wild," said West.

Animals that are rehabilitating and that are permanent residents live in enclosures which are improved with natural touches like trees that would be found in their natural environment.

"In order to put branches in their cages we do collect fallen limbs and bows from trees and add them to habitats, but to have an entire tree gives them all the smells they're going to find in the wild and something to perch in," said West.

Bringing that outdoor nature into the cages of the animals helps improve their stay, she said.

"It can de-stress or give them something to tear apart if they're an animal that wants to create a den," said West.

One of the center's current porcupine residents has already made a den with the tree in his enclosure.

The program also provides a place to put trees to good use after the holidays.

"I think that people like being able to recycle their trees and it's going to a good use as opposed to just take it to the dump. I've actually had someone tell me 'I'd rather bring it to you guys than seeing it go to waste,'" said Paula Harris, an office assistant at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center.

The care center is also hoping for an arborist who can donate some labor around the facility after a tree came down onto one of the animal enclosures on Christmas Eve.

"Because we are here on five acres in the woods, we occasionally have some issues with the trees on our properties," said West.

Christopher Andersson

Turkey vulture Aura, who has been a resident at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center since 2011, now has a tree in her enclosure thanks to a donated Christmas tree.

"Unfortunately it came down on Christmas Eve and it smashed through one of the habitats," she said.

An owl that the center had been housing named Luna escaped.

"She did have some vision impairment but she could fly, so we're confident that she'll be okay. We'll miss her, but it happened," said West.

Sarvey officials are worried about heavy limbs and ice on the remaining trees and hoping to prevent further damage to their property.

"It's our objective to not file insurance claims for broken habitats," she said.

West said the organization is always looking for donations as well. "We fully run off of donations, we don't get money from the government," she said.

"We're also here to answer questions and take-in patients anytime," she said.

More information about the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center is available on their website at


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