Potomac animal sanctuary fundraising for new well | Montana News

Huckleberry the special-needs beaver needs a new well at Animal Wonders sanctuary in Potomac.

The dry summer and changing water conditions at the sanctuary left Huckleberry — who suffers from brain trauma — and his animal neighbors with little water to drink, bathe and play in. Lately, Huckleberry’s specially built pool can only be filled halfway, limiting the quality of life for the beaver who occasionally experiences bouts of being extremely uncoordinated.

Animal Wonders sanctuary is raising funds for a new well to provide water for its animals.

“The water has always been a major issue,” said Jessi Knudsen Castaneda, the executive director at Animal Wonders. She and her crew were fortunate to find a new site to drill a well on their property to replace the water lost from the original well, but they need to raise about $10,000 to realize their goals of serving the animals in their care and educating the community.

“It’s not great,” said Knudsen Castaneda as she carefully fed carrots to Huckleberry last week. “It’s okay. He’s surviving. But we have a saying here at Animal Wonders: we don’t just want the animal to survive, we want the animal to thrive.”

Animal Wonders sanctuary is raising funds for a new well to provide water for its animals.

Huckleberry is one of 102 rescued animals who have found a home at Animal Wonders. The rescues who end up at the sanctuary usually come in as exotic pets or relocations from small private zoos. Some of them also arrive if they aren’t a good fit for the zoo where they were originally placed.

Since 2008, Knudsen Castaneda and her husband have been using their training to rehabilitate and care for a wide variety of creatures, from Kemosabe the porcupine, to Steve the parrot, to a pair of monkeys named Mimi and Lily.

The staff at Animal Wonders operates with the goal of protecting animals who could no longer survive in the wild, while also helping community members be responsible pet owners and stewards of wildlife. Knudsen Castaneda performs about 200 public presentations a year and hosts camps throughout the summer — with the help of animal educators like Freya the pine snake — to encourage people in and around Missoula to make smart pet purchases and properly care for animals.

Numerous animals at the sanctuary arrive with damage to their toes, claws and snouts because of neglect, abuse or improper enclosures.

“They all have their own stories,” said Knudsen Castaneda, who knows each animal by name. Some are “spicy,” while others are great at working with children. A few are territorial, while their fellow rescues are sociable and eager for companions. But they all need water for one reason or another, and a new well will be crucial to allowing them to continue surviving and thriving at Animal Wonders.

Knudsen Castaneda said the community has been overwhelmingly supportive of Animal Wonders over the past 14 years. Fundraisers helped Kemosabe the porcupine’s enclosure remodel for his 14th birthday, and Knudsen Castaneda said the first call for donations for the well was fulfilled within 48 hours.

She’s hopeful, therefore, that the community will come together to raise $10,000. That would not only help secure water for Huckleberry and his fellow sanctuary residents, but also allow Animal Wonders to add a visitor center and expand its programming.

Knudsen Castaneda said sanctuaries, including Animal Wonders, are reaching their capacity across the country, and it’s important to continue supporting their needs to expand.

It’s a goal, she said, that will benefit Loki the water dragon, Lumi the Arctic Fox and Chex the Chinchilla — and their community.

To donate, go to https://animalwonders.networkforgood.com/projects/179362-water-for-the-animals?utm_campaign=dms_email_blast_2223538.