I First Met Art Just About 10 Years Ago
Art Lillund died during the early hours of today, March 30, 2014, at the Bishop Care Center. He is free at last of the ravages of wide-spread cancer.
I first met Art just about 10 years ago. He was referred to me as a "snake guy" who might have some rodents we could buy for our raptor patients. He came out to Keough's to meet me and bring some rodents that he donated. At that time, ESWC was still housed in my small blue trailer and the tiny adjacent trailer. The only large cage we had was the 11 foot (plus 3 foot entry) that Mary Tannheimer built for us and that Jane Kenyon and Eastern Sierra Audubon helped fund.
He wore his characteristic jeans, dark blue shirt and suspenders, baseball cap and wire-rimmed glasses. We talked just a little, and he offered to help with transporting wildlife patients to other facilities--something we had to do much more often when our facilities were so small.
Not long after our first meeting, we needed to transfer a patient to another facility. I can't remember the specific animal or destination, but from that time one, Art became a vital part of Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care. He did transfers to San Rafael and Davis, Placerville and Lake Tahoe, Ojai, Riverside, and Ridgecrest. He did rescues or helped with them in every part of the Eastern Sierra, from Olancha to Fish Lake to Bridgeport and Walker. He helped with returns, and did hundreds of pickups from homes, schools, and businesses. For many years, he was part of our Education Team, bringing his snakes and snake knowledge to schools and organizations; holding down the Reptile Room at Wild Spirits. His flyaway coin can arrived frequently to be emptied of coins, then taken home where he started filling it again.
I remember a Great Horned Owl that was rescued from a barbed wire fence near Tom's Place and sent to WildCare in San Rafael. Art drove the bird over; many weeks later, he drove the owl back. After an 8-hour drive, he arrived at the release site in time for the bird to be set free not far from where he had been found.
Another time, Art drove two young White Pelicans down to Linda Evans near Riverside. They were boxed in such a way that they could lift their long necks, head and beak out of one end of the box. It was quite a sight to see them through the windows of the camper shell on his red truck. Two long-beaked, white heads craning to see out the window as he drove off!
When the White Pelican (soon to be named "Puff") was reported late on Friday afternoon at the building site for the DWP pumpback station south of Lone Pine, Art drove down in the near dark, and searched for two hours in wind and darkness. The following morning, I accompanied him and we returned to the area and searched for another 2 hours until finally the large bird was spotted. Puff rode on the bench behind the front seat of his truck, her head lifted as she watched the action through the windows. Art visited Puff every day for the next weeks until she was transferred to Moonridge Animal Park.
The team of Art Lillund and Kevin Calder returned many birds to nests and/or nest trees: Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Ravens and Crows. Kevin had some time to relive those moments with Art during his visits in the days before his death.
I recall the time that Art, Jack Ferrell and I drove through the dusk to June Lake where an injured juvenile Raccoon was hiding under the pilings of a hillside home. Art and Jack stood by while I crawled under the house and tried to get a net over the young animal. It evaded the nets also wielded by Jack and Art and made a bee line across the street and out of sight. We searched without success. (I wondered what the home owner had thought when the senior citizen rescue team showed up. Art and I were hovering around 70 and Jack was close to eighty!)
Then there was Karma. Art was one of the volunteers who would come to the Center to fly Karma during the Red-tailed Hawks daily flights. They had a great friendship and Art often said that flying Karma was the best part of his life
Art was also a great friend and fan of Razzle. I took Razzle to visit Art at his home shortly before he went to the Care Center. Before you knew it, Razzie had Art laughing until he could hardly breathe!
I could write a book about all the wildlife adventures of which Art was a part. And he was also a friend who drove me down to Ridgecrest for ESWC shopping at Home Depot or took me to the airport in Reno.
There are so many stories, so many animals that Art selflessly and compassionately rescued, returned, picked up and transported. Literally, they number in the hundreds.
As I am writing this, I am visualizing Art somewhere on the other side (whatever exactly that might be), surrounded by a multitude of animal spirits to which he gave his help and his heart. Thank you, Art, for all that you gave to me and the animals. We love you.