Wildlife Images, a wild animal rehabilitation center in Grants Pass, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland want to work together to train field agents and educate the public about wildlife conservation and research.
In the works for eight to 10 years, the project is another step in an ongoing collaboration that stretches back about 20 years.
"We have a lot of projects in mind, some amazing, cutting-edge science we're going to be pushing forward," said Dave Siddon, Wildlife Images director. "We know where we're going and how we're going to get there."
The Forensics Laboratory is the only full-service crime-scene lab in the world dedicated to investigating crimes in the wild — offenses such as poaching and trafficking in animal parts.
The organizations want to create a site at Wildlife Images where U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents can train. Roughly 200 USFWS agents around the country have been trained by officials of the forensics lab. But the training occurs in other states, meaning laboratory trainers have to haul gear long distances.
"What Dave is offering is a permanent training site," said Forensics Laboratory Director Ken Goddard. "We think it's a great idea."
The training site would be based at Wildlife Images' 24-acre facility, where about 1,000 sick, injured and orphaned wild animals are treated and rehabilitated annually. It would double as a research and education facility for high school and college students.
A cost estimate for the project was not available, because plans are still being drafted and fundraising efforts have not begun.
"It's a few years out," Siddon said.
The organizations will also use their partnership to educate the public.
Goddard said the laboratory does not offer public tours in order to keep evidence from ongoing cases secure and to prevent the spread of disease. One of the first steps in the new partnership will be to produce a video tour of the laboratory that would be on display at Wildlife Images. Education about the work performed at the laboratory will also be discussed in Wildlife Images' education programs.
"Hopefully it'll be the beginning of an amazing opportunity for wildlife," Siddon said.
— Ryan Pfeil