Nature of Wildworks is new to Coarsegold, having purchased land and moved there in Oct. 2021, the organization had a home in Topanga Canyon in Southern California for more than 25 years. Fires, changing times, and zoning issues changed all that and caused Los Angeles County to require them to move.
COARSEGOLD — There’s a new guy in town. His name is Bob, and he’s handsome and super-sweet, just the kind of fellow anyone would fall for.
Bob has taken up residence in Coarsegold on ten acres of land with his best friends, including Hailstorm, Cory, Star, Sky, Thunder, Murray, Serena, Myrtle, Artemis and more. He lives at the new home of Nature of Wildworks, a 501(c)3 organization originally established in Topanga Canyon (southern California) over 25 years ago. Bob shares his space with a hedgehog, various foxes, a couple of canines, additional felines, ferrets, birds, a turtle and reptiles, and their human friends.
Bob is a bobcat.
Mollie Hogan, the founder and executive director of Nature of Wildworks, was an animal presenter at the Los Angeles Zoo. The program she was a part of — “Wild in the City” — was cancelled suddenly, and the animals needed a new home. After much discussion with the powers that be, she was able to bring them home with her to Topanga Canyon. It all began with eight critters, including Phoenix and Sage, brother and sister mountain lions.
She is joined by Meagan Platt, the assistant director, and Nicole Wilson, animal care and education specialist. They all trained at Moorpark College at the Exotic Animal & Training Management program, known as “America’s Teaching Zoo.” Not necessarily coincidentally, Nicole Wilson’s parents, Gary and Cindy Wilson, have taught there just under 40 years.
Meagan Platt has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from San Diego State University and did a summer volunteer program in South Africa at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, where she realized she wanted to work with exotic animals. She volunteered at the San Diego Zoo, where she learned about the Moorpark College programs. When she eventually saw the Nature of Wildworks job posting, she instantly applied. She calls this her dream job. She has taken charge of the technology of Nature of Wildworks, including its website and social media.
Nicole Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from CSU Channel Islands in 2015. From there she attended the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark, graduating in 2017. Nicole exhibits dynamic interaction with all the species housed at Nature of Wildworks.
When I visited the Nature of Wildworks Coarsegold site, it was evident that the move is still in process, but even more clear that the animals are Wildworks’ top priority. The ladies give them the best care possible from feeding to cleaning to socializing to making sure they have everything they need for long, healthy lives.
All animals housed at Nature of Wildworks were either confiscated from homes where they were illegally kept or surrenders by owners who could no longer care for them. They are unable to be returned to the wild and, for their safety and wellbeing, must be cared for by a licensed facility, which Wildworks is. In fact, Fish and Wildlife often contacts them when they retrieve illegally owned creatures. Mollie accepts them as often as she is able.
Nicole Wilson is simply amazing in her knowledge, respect and love for the animals under her care. She knows them all by name (as do Mollie and Meagan, of course), all their characteristics and each one’s individual peculiarities. Nicole is so engaging in her presentation with the animals that it’s impossible not to fall in love with all of them.
For example, Spring the fox loves to give kisses to humans while the ferrets, including Crocodile and Peter Pan are lively and engaging, and they are also escape artists. Crocodile is one of the animals Mollie took in when his original owner in Nevada could no longer care for him and transferred him to a family member in California. That family member rapidly learned that properly caring for a ferret is no easy task and discovered keeping a ferret in California is illegal. Looking for an alternative, she started calling wildlife facilities. When Mollie was asked if she’d accept Crocodile, she said yes.
Although Nature of Wildworks is new to Coarsegold, having purchased land and moved there in Oct. 2021, the organization had a home in Topanga Canyon in Southern California for more than 25 years. Fires, changing times, and zoning issues changed all that and caused Los Angeles County to require them to move. During its entire lifetime Nature of Wildworks has been headed by Mollie, and she pours her whole being into it. Nicole and Meagan show the same dedication to the care of their animal friends.
An interim relocation to land near Sedona, Arizona, proved to be problematic, as well, so they had to start looking for another site back in California, although horses and birds of prey are still in Arizona until they can be moved to California, as the Arizona zoning laws allowed them to house domestics and birds of prey.
The wild animals (and two Nature of Wildworks employees) moved to Paso Robles for almost a year as the search went on for a permanent residence.
Madera County became the location of choice when they discovered that the fastest conditional use permit could be obtained there in something like 3 months. Mollie met with the Madera County Planning Department in person and, contrary to the reception in Arizona, Madera County appeared to welcome them with open arms, stating in a written letter that their wild animals could be moved there at any time without the Conditional Use Permit. They closed escrow on the ten-acre property on Mollie’s birthday.
Much remains to be completed on the Coarsegold property, such as building permanent enclosures for the animals as well as constructing areas where they can have free run time. It’s a long-term process, but the Nature of Wildworks staff and supporters are in it for the long haul and look forward to being able to offer tours and special events on the property.
Non-profits like Nature of Wildworks thrive on volunteers, and they offer multiple ways to help. To assist in on-site operations, volunteers should be at least 18, need to be strong enough to “schlepp” items around the property, make food, clean animal enclosures, socialize the animals, provide animal enrichment and assist at presentations. For those who can’t perform the more active duties, other opportunities exist to further Nature of Wildworks’ mission, including donations to their Amazon wish list, direct donations via their website and long-range planning via wills or bequests.
Once you meet Bob and his family, it’s impossible not to fall in love with all of them.
How to Help
All photos courtesy of Nature of Wildworks, except Bob the Bobcat photo by Judi Hussain.