Wildlife Feeding: A Challenge at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center | Local News

Southwest Wildlife Conservancy Center is home to many native Arizona species whose diets vary widely.

The majority of the animals in our sanctuary are mammals, but we also occasionally encounter species of birds or reptiles. With this kind of diversity, we find big differences in diets ranging from vegetarians to carnivores and everything in between.

A number of our animals are omnivores so they are more generalists in their diets, but we also see many individuals within a species who prefer certain foods and can be quite picky.

Feeding times and diets are determined by our Animal Care Manager for all sanctuary and release animals. Sanctuary animals receive a variety of foods in their diet, including things they wouldn’t find in their native habitats.

Released animals, on the other hand, are offered food that they would only find in their natural environment. We do our best to teach the releasable what foods are available in nature and where to find them so they will be more successful when released.

Our animal care specialists, our veterinary staff and our many volunteers take on the enormous task of feeding and caring for these animals on a daily basis. We house between 100 and 200 animals in our sanctuary, a number that changes with the time of year.

Baby season, May to September, is our busiest time. Newborn babies need formula instead of breast milk to ensure they receive adequate nutrition. Many babies need extra feedings throughout the day, requiring our animal care and veterinary staff to syringe feed our newborns until they are able to eat food. solid on their own.

Fruits and vegetables are a big part of our animals’ diets, and we are fortunate to have local grocery stores and individuals who donate fresh produce that complements what we buy directly. Our carnivores and omnivores obtain a variety of meats including chicken, turkey, fish, mice and beef that we purchase direct. Occasionally we accept donations of meat, such as deer and elk directly from known hunters.

While our Mexican black bears, cougars and gray wolves enjoy these wild meats, we find changing their feeding routine is great for enrichment, bringing out their natural hunting and foraging instincts. Each individual has their own preferences, which is why we constantly adapt diet plans to meet individual tastes while maintaining the best possible nutrition.

Join one of our tours to see for yourself!

Chelsea Lee-Wilkins is an animal care specialist at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.