Walk on the Wild Side-Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center by Lynette Carrington Taking a Walk on the Wild Side at Southwest Wildlife Conservation CenterLiving in the desert certainly includes the occasional encounter with our state’s wildlife. One facility in North Scottsdale provides opportunities for the general public to see rescued desert mammals up close and personal while getting an education about conservation and respect for our fellow desert inhabitants. It was exciting to tour Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and learn about their work. Since 1994, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center cares for rescued desert mammals. Some of the many creatures that live at the center include bobcats, a great horned owl named “Moccasin,” a Harris Hawk, four different species of fox, mountain lions, a jaguar, Mexican wolves, coyotes, deer and even a merry group of bears. Some of the animals have been rescued from the animal performance industry, turned in by owners that could no longer care for them, or have been injured. Many of the animals that were born into captivity, have been performing or have had too much contact with humans are simply unable to be released back into the wild as they wouldn’t last, or would become a threat to humans. Director of Education at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Nikki Julien says, “Ninety-one percent of all animals that we rescue are released back into the wild.” This is an outstanding statistic. Most frequently, rescue animals that cannot be released are too injured to survive on their own in the wild, or have had too much contact with humans. The center also has a partnership with other organizations where it can transfer animals that would be suited for a different style of facility, once they are cared for and rehabilitated.As Julien walked with me through an area with shaded animal enclosures, the coyotes decided it was time to party! A symphony of howling whipped through the center and it was something to behold! “Although they’re not all in the same enclosure, they all still think they’re part of the same pack,” Julien explains. The center has a staff of 10, including a veterinarian, who is in charge of the all of the “paws and claws” that reside there. “We also have 80 volunteers, so we have a fabulous support system,” says Julien. Obviously, having so many animals requires a lot of food, and some of it is donated to the center. It was fun to go around and see animals with their food bowls or bins, and they all had something a little different. Black bear “Tahoe” revels in digging through his massive food bowl, picking out a whole mango and then taking to his elevated platform to lovingly peel it, as if he were a fine gentleman enjoying his afternoon tea and crumpets. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center provides a fantastic opportunity to see wild animals in a facility that allows you to get much closer than someplace like a traditional zoo. It is also heartwarming to hear how the animals are loved and cared for, especially the ones who call the center home on a permanent basis.Tours of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center are available for a small fee during mornings in the summer. Call-ahead reservations are needed. The facility is located at 27026 N. 156th St., Scottsdale. Visit www.southwestwildlife.org or call (480) 471-9109 for more information, or to make tour reservations.