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A place to share their message: California Wildlife Center highlighted at chamber’s latest breakfast event

(Left to right) Malibu Chamber of Commerce CEO Barbara Bruderlin; Anthony McDemas, Special Project Coordinator; Heidi Bernard, Executive Director of Pepperdine’s Crest Associates and Co-Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce; and speaker Heather Patrice Brown, of the California Wildlife Center, gather for a photo during the Connections Breakfast last week. Barbara Burke/22nd Century Media
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
12:00 am PST November 23, 2016

This month’s Malibu Chamber of Commerce Connections Breakfast, held at Paradise Cove Restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 16, featured Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator for the California Wildlife Center. 

“The Chamber holds the Connections Breakfasts to give a sense of community amongst business owners,” said Barbara Bruderlin, CEO of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce. “Through camaraderie we make friends, lift each other up and at the same time fulfill business needs. It is beneficial for everyone to have a place to meet regularly.”

The event served as a platform for a conversation about what the California Wildlife Center does and how Malibu residents can interact with animals non-invasively and safely.  

“To have a speaker like Heather Brown was amazing,” Bruderlin said. “We get to learn what it is like to rehabilitate injured and displaced wildlife, and with the California Wildlife Center in our backyard we have the opportunity to volunteer, donate and really make a difference for a great business in our community.”  

The California Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of native California wildlife. The center, located at 26026 Piuma Road, in Calabasas, cares for sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife by giving them quality medical care and rehabilitation, and releasing them back into the wild. The center also provides educational and conservation outreach programs, including programs on terrestrial animals, marine mammals, backyard wildlife and helping wildlife in need. The center does not present with live animals. 

Brown’s Chamber presentation concerned coexisting with wildlife in an urban/suburban environment. 

“As the weather gets cooler, we are getting calls about skunks, coyotes and raccoons. The raccoons will begin searching for warm, safe places to stay,” Brown said. “Make sure those places do not include your attic or the crawl space under your house, by sealing up any possible entry points. Don’t leave any food or water out that may attract raccoons. Make it as difficult as possible for the animal to go into a crawl space. Seal off all vents. Make it uncomfortable for the animals by doing things like turning a bright light on in crawl space and turning on a loud radio. Check your yard and do not leave out pet food, a water source, or birdseed. The coyotes eat the animals that eat the bird seed.” 

For more pointers on how to discourage raccoons or other animals from becoming winter visitors at a house, visit

Brown explained that federal law instructs it is unlawful to take in a wild animal. It is wise to call the center for help. Brown emphasized that coexistence with animals can be a positive experience, and educating the public about how to handle interactions with animals is critical.

“Do not use rat poison,” Brown said. “Other animals will eat the rats which will cause the animals to have a weakened immune system and make the animals sick.” 

The center also rescues and rehabilitates wildlife.

“We take care of injured and orphaned wildlife, animals who may need our help,” Brown said. “We save terrestrial animals and we also work with the Marine Mammal Association. We are the only organization who can rescue marine animals along the Malibu Coast.” 

The need for such support services for wildlife is ever-growing and changing weather conditions contribute to an increase in stranded animals. So far this year, the center has rescued 250 marine mammals, including 200 California sea lions and 50 seals. The center has also taken in 3,653 birds. 

Brown explained that an ongoing NOAA Fisheries marine mammal and ecosystem survey off the West Coast has sighted several surprising species of tropical cetaceans and birds, including pygmy killer whales and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels. These animals have never before been documented so far north. Further, scientists are also seeing loggerhead turtles. The animals are likely attracted by unusually warm Pacific Ocean waters. 

“Hundreds of marine mammal babies have been stranded in recent years,” Brown said. “Scientists are working on what is causing the stranding. It may be because of changes in the atmosphere that have made for more acid in the water. We have a marine mammal center that can take up to 25 animals and that helps to relieve the burden for other area organizations.”

Brown told the very interested audience what to do if one finds a stranded animal or sea bird.

“Call the center for help. Keep at least 50 feet away from the animal,” Brown said. “Talk to the lifeguards if possible. Keep dogs away from the animal,” Brown said. “Do not shoo the animal back into the water. 

“It is illegal to keep wildlife as a pet and if you keep it too long, you can habituate the animal,” Brown added.

The center, which is equipped to properly care for and release rehabilitated wildlife, has only 10 employees and benefits from the help of 200 volunteers. More volunteers are needed, and people can donate to the center on its website. 

The Chamber of Commerce’s Connections Breakfast also provides a great monthly platform for businesses to inform one another and the greater community about their philanthropic efforts.  

At this month’s meeting, Lina Gazarova of Malibu Real Estate announced that company is launching an annual Holiday Toy Drive to benefit The Midnight Mission. The Toy Drive benefits children from infants to 14-year-olds. Donations of toys and books that are new or used can be dropped off at the Malibu Real Estate Office at 22611 PCH from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily from Dec. 1-8. To get more information, call Lina Gazarova at (310) 804-5272, or email Ricardo Rosales at

Next month, the Breakfast Connections meeting will feature guest speaker Bob Morris, owner of Paradise Cove Restaurant, who will speak about the history of Paradise Cove. The December Breakfast will be at 8 a.m. on Dec. 14. There is a 20-percent discount off the breakfast menu and free parking.