The Center for Wildlife Health Research in Freeport received a big boost last week in its ongoing effort to reduce community cat colonies in Maine and to increase its board membership.

A $30,000 grant from the Elmina B. Sewell Foundation will help the center to conduct research on cat colony reduction. An $8,000 gift from the Belvedere Animal Welfare Fund at the Maine Community Foundation will be used for board development, strategic planning and organizational capacity-building.

“We are very excited to have the support of these two foundations for our mission,” said Lesley Lichko, a board member and former development director.

The Center for Wildlife Research seeks new board members who have expertise in marketing, financial management, fundraising, law or human resources, as well as a passion for the well being of animals.

Dr. Elizabeth Stone is executive director and chief veterinary officer of the center, and the veterinarian at the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic, located on U.S. Route 1 in Freeport, which is supported by the center. Stone founded the Center for Wildlife Health Research to reduce the negative impact of human activities on wildlife.

According to a press release, the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic is a low-cost operation that has sterilized more than 15,000 dogs and cats since it opened in 2010. The Center for Wildlife Research conducts humane and environmental education camps throughout the summer in Freeport. Programs also include education, applied research and early spay-neuter surgeries designed to promote responsible pet care.

“Action for Animals summer camp is our newest program, aimed at engaging students, ages 9 and up, in protection of wildlife and the environment, including through the responsible care of pets,” Stone said. “Our focus is to stimulate critical thinking that leads to improved understanding of the interconnectedness of environmental protection and their daily lives.

Camp also gives children an opportunity to learn and use skills they can then put to work to protect animals and/or the environment,” she said. “For example, campers will design and put on a fundraiser, donate the proceeds to the animal charity of their choice, make a video production, and keep a journal of ways they can put their passion into action.”

“Through our Feral Cat Project, we hope to gain as much information about stray, feral and barn cats as possible,” Stone said. “The project is designed to identify areas/situations where spay-neuter has been or is being used, assess impact of these efforts. Using this information, we will be able to identify how well spay-neuter is working, where the best success and the greatest challenges exist, and make recommendations on targeting future resources to achieve best results.”

Stone said that within the next few weeks, the center will be posting an online survey about feral cats.

“We urge people to visit our website in February and complete that survey,” she said. “People can rest assured we will not be asking for exact location of cats. Approximate location, by nearby street intersection, is all we will ask for. The more people that contribute information, the more accurate our results will be, and the better we can guide future spay-neuter efforts.”

Tri-Town Weekly

By Larry Grard lgrard@keepmecurrent.com