Founded in 1982, Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center was initially a small, one-room offshoot of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV). One year later, the family and friends of Natalie Gneiser — a young woman who was killed while trying to rescue an injured dog on the highway — donated memorial funds to this cause, allowing the Center to expand to help more patients.
During the next 14 years, the number of animals brought to the Center for care increased by 20–30% each year. Meanwhile, as Boulder grew, ensuring a quiet and secure environment for wild animals to recover became increasingly difficult.
In March 1993, the Center incorporated due to its continuous growth and was named Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Sanctuary (officially renamed “Center” in 2008). “Greenwood” was the name of the Center’s first rehabilitated raccoon, which had been burned in a chimney fire. At the time of incorporation, Greenwood was operating out of a veterinarian’s office in north Longmont.
In 1997, Greenwood secured a lease from Boulder County for a property on Highway 66 between Longmont and Lyons. For the next 10 years, it operated out of two modular units on this site. Caging was built for raccoons, songbirds, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, and foxes. In 2007, the Center received a contribution to purchase the previously leased property plus an additional 1.5 acres. Another large contribution provided funds to help build a new, state-of-the-art facility, with donations coming from many other supporters. Greenwood moved into this building in early 2009. Fundraising efforts and the annual budget continued to increase with the addition of a Thrift Shop in 2004 and an annual major event, Wild Night for Wildlife, in 2009. In 2012, Greenwood relocated the Thrift Shop and expanded its retail efforts to include a Consignment Gallery, the only nonprofit store of its kind in Boulder County.
The Greenwood team has continued to expand our facility by building a waterfowl enclosure in 2017. We added a new crow aviary and finished renovations to our existing fox enclosure in 2019. These improvements allow us to care for a
greater number of orphans.
An essential component of our mission is education and outreach, teaching about the importance of protecting Colorado’s natural fauna as well as finding humane solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. Greenwood’s community outreach programs have been growing steadily and have readily adapted to the recent push towards online and virtual media.
Since its inception, over 200 different species have been rehabilitated at Greenwood. With only a small year-round staff, the majority of personnel needed to operate the Center includes the volunteers, interns, and seasonal employees who work diligently from March through October, caring at times for more than 500 animals daily. Greenwood currently has 13 rehabilitators licensed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and our success rate remains high as we all work together. As the only Center providing care for a wide variety of species from north of Pueblo to the Wyoming border, Greenwood provides leadership to the wildlife rehabilitation community throughout Colorado and the nation. Despite the unprecedented challenges of the global pandemic, we remain steadfast as an essential service providing care and rehabilitation to wildlife in need. We look forward to our 40th year of service to the community in 2022.
Keep in mind that some of the practices from this story are now illegal.
Todd the Titanium Fox
Sunshine Canyon is a beautiful place. It hangs in the foothills over the western flank of Boulder. The land rises and falls with rocky outcrops separated by shady draws of seemingly endless pine forest. This is habitat for all sorts of animals including bears, mountain lions and, of course, foxes. Unfortunately, there is also a busy road nearby.
Bill and Berry live in Sunshine Canyon and one morning in the fall of 2003 they noticed that their regular fox visitor was hanging around the wood pile longer than usual. They assumed that he was hunting something lurking amongst the logs. But a day later he was still there and on closer inspection seemed to be incapable of walking. Their neighbors, Don and Marty, being Greenwood supporters, knew what to do and arranged a transfer to our facility.
This fox was in a sorry state when he arrived at Greenwood and it became evident that he had been hit by a car. His left hip was badly battered and he needed a miracle.
Dr. Colin Combs is a veterinary surgeon in Greeley who specializes in wildlife treatment and he helps Greenwood with a lot of animal cases. Dr. Combs performed surgery on the fox placing titanium plates to reinforce the damaged pelvis and broken femur. The fox returned to Greenwood with a long scar on his shaved left leg and hip. But at least he was in one piece-all he had to do was heal and get strong again. He would need plenty of recovery time and winter was approaching fast. He was installed in the fox enclosure, which is the quietest place at Greenwood. Foxes are such free spirits that they are very prone to stress when they are enclosed. The fox enclosure is in the furthest corner of the property at Greenwood which helps to reduce noise, but necessary visits for cleaning his quarters and delivering food create some disturbance.
As the winter months ricked by, many staff and volunteers at Greenwood became involved with the fox’s care and sometime during this period he picked up the name Todd. It just seemed right. He must have been in pain from his major operation and he looked melancholy and lonely most of the time. Foxes are omnivores so he was given a widely varied diet; hard-boiled eggs, dead mice, fruit, as well as cat and dog food. The trouble was that Todd kept going on a hunger strike. Worse still, he developed an ulcer and was producing black bloody diarrhea. All sorts of treats were hip. But at least he was in one piece-all he had to do was heal and get strong again. He would need plenty of recovery time and winter was approaching fast. He was installed in the fox enclosure, which is the quietest place at Greenwood. Foxes are such free spirits that they are very prone to stress when they are enclosed. The fox enclosure is in the furthest corner of the property at Greenwood which helps to reduce noise, but necessary visits for cleaning his quarters and delivering food create some disturbance.
As the winter months ricked by, many staff and volunteers at Greenwood became involved with the fox’s care and sometime during this period he picked up the name Todd. It just seemed right. He must have been in pain from his major operation and he looked melancholy and lonely most of the time. Foxes are omnivores so he was given a widely varied diet; hard-boiled eggs, dead mice, fruit, as well as cat and dog food. The trouble was that Todd kept going on a hunger strike. Worse still, he developed an ulcer and was producing black bloody diarrhea. All sorts of treats were tried without success. One afternoon Cris McKee, Greenwood’s former Operations Manager, pulled out all the stops to tempt him – fox lasagna. In a bowl she put a layer of dead mice, a layer of jerky treats and then a layer of cheese and then repeated all the layers. Cris says “We were desperate – I smacked that yucky mess in the microwave and nuked it until it was bubbling”. She goes on “The smell was so bad that even holding it at arm’s length I was gagging all the way to the fox enclosure.” Todd walked right up and scoffed every morsel.
As the spring came closer I was asked to photograph Todd and spent some time with him. One sunny morning I entered his den. He was crouched in the corner in a little sunny pocket. Slowly and quietly I managed to creep within a few feet without alarming him too much. Usually, when you see a fox in the wild you just see a yellow-brown flash of body rushing somewhere. Getting up close to Todd was an extraordinary experience. His fur was thick and soft, and the morning sun turned it into rich rusty reds and burnt orange shades. His eyes were deep pools of molten gold and amber. It seemed so cruel that such a beauty was cooped up like this. His natural lush beauty marred by his left rear leg that was shaved with a long scar. The taut muscular lines and short grey underfur looked abrupt compared with the rest of his flowing shape. He looked like a sad ballet dancer in a fur coat. But, bit by bit, he was getting stronger and walking with less of a limp and soon he was ready to go.
On the day of his release Sunshine Canyon was living up to its name. It was a radiant but crisp March morning. The release site was Todd’s old home in the woods on the draw near Don and Marty’s place but well away from the road. His large carrier was placed so that he could watch us deposit a few food items that he could come back for later. Previously none of us had ever seen him trot further than a few feet and we wondered how he would reluctantly stagger out of his box into the wild. Those worries were soon dispelled. He was growing restless in his box, which was obvious from increasingly loud impacts from the inside. He was inhaling familiar smells and he was itching to escape. Cris unlocked the carrier door. There was a pause and then an orange eruption. This observer estimates that Todd had achieved thirty miles an hour before his first paw landed on the pine litter. Was his titanium leg working OK? In the speeding blur you couldn’t really tell because it was going so fast, but I think we can assume yes. As the camera shutters whirred he took about four bounds to reach the first cover of a clump of pine trees. When he reached this first safety he paused and looked back as if to say “Bye and thanks for all the mice” which was enough to reduce his former caregivers into a sobbing, blubbing huddle.
Then he was gone like a ghost. Five months of care was validated in a few seconds of flashing blur. But now maybe Sunshine Canyon was just a little more golden yellow than before. As the spring breeze ruffled the pine needles across the draw, all the melancholy of his incarceration evaporated into this glowing moment.
Did you know? Greenwood is the name of our very first patient, a raccoon who survived a chimney fire. Green wood doesn't burn...
In the winter of 2007, a large number of Northern Shovelers and Gadwall Ducks were injured at a wastewater treatment plant. Greenwood helped 61 struggling waterfowl return to good health. The volunteers and staff recorded the experience in this one-of-a-kind coffee table book. You can still purchase the book filled with the harrowing story and bright photographs on this site. Proceeds benefit our current patients and the inevitable wastewater treatment patients to come!
Our long-time volunteers are the backbone that keep this organization running. Take for example, a longtime volunteer Patty. She tells her story in this video….
Another longtime volunteer Paul, receives the Every Day Hero Award from Channel7 in 2009.
Soon Greenwood will be helping even more wildlife. Our local lagomorph rehabilitator at Colorado Wild Rabbit Foundation is planning to retire, leaving no one to care for bunnies from north Denver to the Wyoming border. Greenwood will be constructing a new facility dedicated to rabbit care. Thanks to two very generous donors, we have already raised the funds and building plans are underway. Since major construction during the busy season puts much stress on the animals in our outside caging, the structure may not be completed until later this year or in early 2023. Thankfully, Colorado Wild Rabbit Foundation will continue to operate until we are good to go. Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to caring for bunnies!
Greenwood hopes to continue this trend of growth and further service to the wild animals in need in Colorado.