Earth Day with Dawn Wildlife

This post is sponsored by Dawn Wildlife. As usual, opinions and thoughts are my own.

Every day should be Earth Day, you know? I try to keep that in mind whenever I’m out and about skiing or hiking or running or whatnot. But regardless, there is only one specific day dedicated to celebrating Mama Earth every year and that’s this Saturday, April 22.

I try to do something different to celebrate every year. Some years, I’ll volunteer with a trash cleanup project {or head out on my own} while others years are spent hiking on my favorite trails. Last year we had just returned from a backcountry skiing adventure where we experienced an epic late-season snowstorm.

And this year? I did something a little different: compliments of my ambassador ship with Dawn Wildlife, I headed to San Francisco last week to visit both the International Bird Rescue and The Marine Mammal Center.

Photos thanks to the International Bird Rescue and The Marine Mammal Center

You guys, both of these facilities are incredible! First, we headed to the International Bird Rescue, a facility that relies hugely on Dawn. As the story goes, there was a large oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971. At the time, there weren’t any organized efforts to help save animals. The founder of the Bird Rescue, Alice Berkener, came up with the idea of the Rescue center while trying to help more than 7000 birds that were harmed by this 1971 spill.

As we learned while there, Berkener literally walked into a grocery store and asked for, “something to help clean off the birds.” She bought a whole bunch of cleaning products, not knowing what would help her birds in the best manner. Turns out, she preferred the oil-eliminating powers of Dawn.

Cleaning a bird

Since then, hundreds of thousands of birds have been returned to the wild thanks to the Bird Rescue. And the team still relies on Dawn to clean every single one {there was soap everywhere since Dawn donates bother materials and finances}. Even more incredible to me, however, was the love and care that they all put into each bird! We spent some time with the vet, Dr. Becky, on site and her ingenuity was incredible. You can’t exactly walk into a pet store and buy a splint for a bird leg, so she has to both diagnose the birds’ ailments as well as design and create many of the required tools used for rehabilitation.

One such trick? They often find birds who have swallowed fish hooks that are swimming around in their systems. Of course, if the hook is latched into their insides, Dr. Becky will have to operate. But if the hook is simply sitting inside, she has learned that they can feed the bird a dead fish stuffed with cotton balls. The cotton balls then form a pellet of sorts which the bird pukes back up. Often, that pellet carries the hook with it!

We spent the afternoon at The Marine Mammal Center which was no less impressive than the Bird Rescue. Instead of birds, however, the Mammal Center’s efforts are geared towards rescue and rehabilitating marine mammals such as sea lions and otters.

Since many of the marine mammals are less finicky than the birds, tourists are allowed to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the Mammal Center. That said, the Center goes out of their way to make sure the animals don’t habituate, or become used to the care and feeding provided by the Center. Animals that are less prone to habituation are placed in the pens closer to to the tourist viewing platforms while the others that are more susceptible are placed in the pens farther back.

This took some getting used to! We got to walk around the pens with the vet and we were under strict orders not to talk or verbally interact with any of the mammals. It makes total sense since they don’t want the otters and seals to get used to human voices cooing at them through the fences, but it was so hard since they were freaking adorable!

We also spent some time learning about how the volunteers make “fish milkshakes.” Since many of the mammals aren’t ready to swim for their own food in the pools, volunteers have to blend up special milkshakes for the mammals. Each one has a separate diet {along with special meds, depending on how they are healing} so the volunteers spend all day blending up these specialized meals.

Then, the volunteers go into the pens and insert a tube into the mammal’s throat, gauging how far the distance is until the stomach. Apparently measuring this distance is critical; if the food isn’t dropped far enough back, there is a chance it will be placed into the mammals lungs and they will aspirate. As such, two volunteers listen for the stomach to make sure they’ve measured to the correct spot. Once they’re confident, they insert the fish milkshake into the tube. This whole process is repeated up to three times per day for every feeding!

More than anything, I was honestly impressed by the love and care that goes into both these facilities. At both the Bird Rescue and the Mammal Center, I heard tales of atrocities that would make your toes curl and eyes well. Two seals who had been brought in thanks to human-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. A pelican whose bill had been slit from side to side. With each story, I was more and more horrified at what humanity is doing to wildlife. In both those situations, the respective center was able to heal and rehab the animal to return him/her to the wild.

That said, not every animal was in the center due to extreme violence. Many mammals were in the Center because of malnourishment due to human encroachment on their environment. Many of the birds and mammals swallowed trash and plastic floating in the water. While every story wasn’t a horror store full of violence, many of these animals were harmed thanks to roundabout human involvement.

But there is hope: The Marine Mammal Center has 60 paid employees and over 1200 VOLUNTEERS. That’s right; the majority of their facility is run by good-hearted humans who dedicate their time and energy.

It gives me hope!



  • Reply Anne at


  • Reply Paulina Dao at

    The MMC is so rad! I volunteered at the Moss Landing location in college. Nice little walk down memory lane 🙂

    • Reply Heather at

      That’s awesome! It was a pretty fantastic place. It’s amazing how much energy they pour into those animals; truly heart warming.

  • Reply Celebrating World Oceans Day...Or Did You? -Just a Colorado Gal at

    […] teamed up to speak out against the potential public land heists. It makes my heart sing! But after visiting the International Bird Rescue and Marine Mammal Center back in April, my eyes have been opened to more environmental concerns than before. Personally, […]

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.