Founder of Wildlife Waystation is ‘devastated and heartbroken’
By Terry Miller
The Wildlife Waystation is a 160-acre animal sanctuary in northern Los Angeles County dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild and exotic animals. It is with great sadness that we report this sanctuary is closing after helping so many animals for so many years.
For 43 years, the Wildlife Waystation provided a home, cared for or rehabilitated over 77,000 animals. Founded by Martine Colette back in 1976, and located on a 160-acre ranch in the Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles, Colette is credited for changing the entire culture of the welfare and sanctuary of animals. Wildlife Waystation was the very first sanctuary of its kind created in the United States. It was also the first facility to care for chimpanzees from biomedical research laboratories and has the largest chimp population in the Western United States. Colette rescued her first animal in 1965 and Wildlife Waystation was accredited as a 501c3 non-profit in 1977.
After years of financial distress and other natural disasters such as fires and floods, the grand experiment that has been Colette’s dream has been forced to close.
The Board of Directors of Wildlife Waystation recently terminated Chief Operating Officer Matthew Simmons after 70 days of employment. At the same time, the Board also asked for the resignation of Board Member David Bruyette. The Board cited “non-approved and non-authorized transactions and actions by staff deemed detrimental to the overall health of the 501c3.” Wildlife Waystation Veterinarian Rebecca Richard resigned thereafter. The Wildlife Waystation is no longer associated with these individuals; they are not involved with the facility and will not be involved in any future animal placement processes.
On Aug. 11, the Wildlife Waystation’s Board of Directors voted to surrender its permit to operate as an animal sanctuary to the California Department Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and to close the facility. While CDFW now maintains authority, Wildlife Waystation is closely cooperating to ensure that daily operations remain smooth. Both parties are working together to place all animals in appropriate wildlife facilities. CDFW and Wildlife Waystation’s primary concern is for the health and welfare of the animals. No animals will be euthanized during this process. This process is expected to take up to one year.
Founder of Wildlife Waystation Martine Colette retired in May of this year and remains in her retirement. Authority for the organization resides entirely with Wildlife Waystation’s Board of Directors. Colette states, “I am devastated and heartbroken. However, the focus is on what is best for the animals. We need to do the right thing for our residents.” Colette thanks all of the supporters who funded Wildlife Waystation through four decades.
The aging facility survived multiple fires, but was extensively damaged in the 2017 Creek Fire and again during flooding in early 2019. This damage created an insurmountable need for funding to meet current standards. At this time, Wildlife Waystation is asking for the public’s support to protect all of their animals and fund their efforts to close the facility, including payroll for the remaining dedicated staff that have taken care of these animals for decades. The staff’s familiar presence helps to keep the animals calm and adds an invaluable sense of normality during this time of transition. These last weeks have been difficult for all of the Wildlife Waystation’s community. Until now, the Waystation has been ignoring the misinformation derived from unauthorized sources, to focus on animal care. Donations can be made at wildlifewaystation.org.
Wildlife Waystation is located at 14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Road in the Angeles National Forest.