Rescue – Rehabilitate – Release
photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Above: This orphaned bobcat kitten receives around the clock care and feeding.

When wild animals are found injured, orphaned or displaced by encroaching land development, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) knows just what to do. The nonprofit organization is there to help our native wildlife by giving them a safe place to recover and grow; a place where their wildness is nurtured and encouraged.

SWCC Founder and Executive Director Linda Searles launched the nonprofit in 1994. The goal established 25 years ago remains: to release the rehabilitated animals back into the wild whenever possible. For those unable to return to their natural habitat, the Center provides permanent sanctuary to live out their lives in comfort. “Our doors are always open,” says Searles. “Our mission is to save our wildlife, one life at a time.”

Above, top left: Vet Tech James O’Brien and volunteer Veterinarian Dr. Rich Fisher apply anesthesia to SWCC’s sanctuary owl, One Eyed Jack, in preparation for removal of a benign mass from his missing eye. Top right: Leo, SWCC’s beloved leopard/ jaguar hybrid, strikes a handsome pose. Bottom: SWCC provides veterinary care at its on-site clinic.



The nonprofit wildlife refuge, located near 156th Street and Rio Verde Drive in Scottsdale, is currently rehabilitating and caring for 310 rescued animals.  

The “residents” include black bears, bobcats, coati, coyotes, deer, foxes, a jaguar/leopard, javelinas, Mexican grey wolves, mountain lions, owls, skunks, tortoises, domesticated horses in need and wild horses and burros.

Specially trained staff and volunteers, as well as skilled veterinarians are on call 24/7 to respond to any wild mammal emergency that may arise. Injured animals are carefully transported to the SWCC on-site clinic where they receive much needed care. Whether it’s a dehydrated bobcat in need of IV fluids or a coyote that requires life-saving surgery, no animal is turned away.

Above left: Tocho, a mountain lion, arrived at SWCC in very bad shape. After many months of care he’s a happy and healthy big cat. Right: Spock, a gray-colored bobcat, was found near Casa Grande after being attacked by a dog. Left with a limp from the attack, Spock will live the remainder of his life at SWCC.



The rehabilitation process continues at SWCC where the animal will have a quiet place to heal and begin its journey back to the wild. For some animals this may be a few weeks of rest and recovery, while others might require a longer stay to heal fully. The goal is to provide each animal an opportunity to return to the wild as safely and quickly as possible with minimal human contact.

Once these orphans are weaned from the bottle and eating on their own, they are moved to an outside area to be with releasable animals of their own kind. This is where they will learn the important lessons that will help them transition back into the wild.


A new chapter begins when they are ready to graduate from SWCC. Release sites are carefully chosen to help increase their odds of success.This has rehabilitated thousands of sick, injured, orphaned or displaced wild animals. More than 70-percent have been successfully released back into the wild.


In the fall of 2016, SWCC received a generous donation from For Those Without a Voice to expand the Center’s clinic. Working together, both nonprofits are aligning its missions to “reverse misfortunes and secure promising futures for Arizona’s children and animals” and to “save our wildlife, one life at a time.” This donation will expand the ability of SWCC to provide needed care for the increasing number of wildlife that comes through its door every year.

Above, top left: A newly-arrived coyote pup is acclimating to his new surroundings. Top right: Bobcat kitten Catalina was found by a well-meaning person who kept her for a few weeks. Without an appropriate fear of humans she cannot survive in the wild, so she is now a permanent resident at SWCC.  Bottom: Heavenly black bear was orphaned as a cub and found a home for life at Southwest Wildlife.


Many animals that arrive at SWCC could not survive in the wild. Some have injuries that prevent them from being released, while others were kept as pets and have imprinted on humans. Non-releasable animals will live out their lives at the Center’s accredited sanctuary. SWCC is the only sanctuary in Arizona capable of caring for large mammals such as black bears, mountain lions and Mexican gray wolves. Accredited by the American Sanctuary Association, SWCC operates under strict guidelines with respect to animal management and care to maintain that accreditation.


Southwest Wildlife operates solely from the public’s support and relies on donations and grants to keep the facility open 24/7 with trained volunteers and skilled veterinarians caring for the animals. The cost of operating the Center is approximately $60K per month. “We can only accomplish this and help our native wild animals through generous donations,” explains Searles.

In addition to rescue and rehabilitation, educational and humane scientific research opportunities are offered in the field of conservation medicine. Wildlife education includes advice on living with wildlife and the importance of native wildlife to healthy ecosystems.

For more information, to make a donation, sponsor an animal, plan a visit or volunteer, visit