- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care center is ready to spread its wings, paws and claws into a newer and bigger facility after 37 years in South Lake Tahoe.

The new $7.5 million facility will be built on a 27-acre plot of land at the corner of Al Tahoe Boulevard and Pioneer Trail.

“We’ve been looking for a piece of property since 1990,” said Tom Millham, the secretary and treasurer for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

“There were about 21 properties we’ve been looking at,” he said. “I guess 21 was our lucky number.”

The center sits on the current three-quarter-acre site and handles up to 800 animals, ranging from birds to raccoons.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Millham said. “Last year we had 15 bear cubs. For about 12 years, we were the only facility licensed to take care of bear cubs in California.”

The organization, which serves nine counties in California and Nevada, rehabilitates injured animals until they can be released. The only animals the organization isn’t licensed to care for are mountain lions, elk and adult bears.

“It was a need, as we were going through this,” Millham said. “Last year, really proved a point that we needed to expand.”

The current center has seven cages, while the new property will house 12 larger cages. The new cages will be about three to four times bigger, Millham said.

That includes nine new fauna isolation cages, a step up from the three at the current center. It will also feature four play areas and 86 cameras surrounding the perimeter fencing and cages, including one for the otter and beavers.

“We’ll also have them in a pool and not an ice rink for most of the year,” Millham said of the otters, beavers and other animals.

The larger space of its 12 bird and animal cages will allow the group to triple the number of animals it can house.

The group raised $3.5 million, but still needs an additional $4 million to pay for costs.

“It’s something we’re very, very excited about,” Millham said. “We don’t have all the funding yet, but we feel pretty confident that we’ll get it. We’re always looking for anybody to step and sponsor a cage.”

Cheryl Millham got her inspiration from a women’s magazine advertising a training class on how to care for wild animals in Palo Alto, Calif.

The couple then took the class, returned home and started the first care center to accept bears in the South Lake Tahoe community. The organization began housing wildlife in 1978 at Bender’s Marina at Camp Richardson.

A year later, the two held their own training class. The current center, built in 1983, now counts 120 volunteers.

In 2000, the center was allowed to care for bears. Since then, it has housed about 70 bears that were rehabilitated and released in the wild,

The plan is to clear the area to begin paving the way for the new building’s foundation and nearby roadways and then complete the infrastructure by mid-October. Construction is set to begin in May next year and finish the following year.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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