Founder and President
In high school and through my 20's I was a professional singer in numerous musical ensembles performing in rock, folk, & country/western bands in Montana and California. My interest in becoming a professional in the wild animal field began in 1980 when I toured the Moorpark College Teaching Zoo for the first time and came face-to-face with a mountain lion. I was hooked! As a student at Moorpark, I worked with that very mountain lion as well as many other wild and exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles. Upon graduation, I moved to Sedona, Arizona, where I managed an animal shelter for a year. When an employment opportunity opened up at the Los Angeles Zoo’s Cat Show, I moved back to California for my dream job. We raised and trained a wide variety of cats for the show: ocelot, bobcat, lynx, caracal, serval, clouded leopard, cheetah, and two very special mountain lions named Phoenix and Sage. During my time at the L.A. Zoo, the “Cat Show” evolved into a native animal presentation called “Wild in the City.” When the show was suddenly terminated in 1993, the animals were relocated to the Moorpark facility where, at the time, I was also a part-time instructor. I applied for the proper permits and then founded the Nature of Wildworks Wildlife Center relocating the animals to our current facility.
Wildworks is truly a dream career, and our organization now provides lifelong care for fifty non-releasable wild animals, encompassing 17 different species, that participate with our staff and volunteers in educational outreach programs for children and adults throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
In addition to Wildworks, I recently founded Cat Business, a behavioral consulting company providing specialized training and problem-solving services for felines and their humans. Check us out on the web at www.catbusiness1.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
Born and raised in Southern California I have always been fascinated by wildlife and animals in general. I grew up wanting my own "zoo"! Animals have always been a huge passion of mine. Wildworks has provided me with amazing opportunities and experiences, with animals and students, both of which are my true passions. I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon Wildworks and given the opportunity to work here among the amazing animals, staff, and volunteers.
--- Volunteers ---
Tara the red tailed hawk brought me to Wildworks. In 1992 a friend told me about a wildlife presentation she had seen, and the beautiful red-tailed hawk that was part of it. I invited the wildlife group to my classroom and she was right. The hawk was amazing. I had never been so close to a wild creature, and my students were in awe of her and the other animals.
When that program closed down a few years later, I found Mollie and the Nature of Wildworks. She invited me to meet her and the animals… and I felt like I had found my very own heaven. I met bobcats and mountain lions and servals, and, of course, Phoenix the mountain. The most special part of that day was seeing beautiful Tara the red-tailed hawk, who was now with Wildworks.
From then on, Mollie brought Tara and other animals into my classroom. Soon we arranged yearly programs for over a dozen other classrooms. It was so important to me for these urban kids to have a personal experience with the animals and to be able to connect with nature.
Three years ago I retired from teaching. I’ve enjoyed helping with Wildworks events. The most fun is being able to do enrichment with a couple of the animals. When I met Bobby the Bobcat, it was love at first sight. And, since I can’t take any of them home, I sponsor two of the animals.
I feel truly blessed to be a part of Wildworks, to know Mollie (I always tell her she is my hero) and all the others who make Wildworks possible. And, always, it’s the animals. Being around them makes my heart smile.
I am an animal behaviorist working with patterns of behavior. Actions performed more than once are patterns and can evolve into habits. Patterns of behavior are influenced by the physical balance of the animal. I have developed programs for horses, dogs, and the human component in the equation. My skills-orientated learning programs clarify mind and body unity, using rhythm and direction to develop coordination and confidence.
I moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1977 with the determination to learn as much as possible about horse behavior. There I met Norme Sande who had an easy rapport with horses, including shoeing them, doing ranch work, and riding in general. Norme introduced me to Ray Hunt, who is well known for Natural Horsemanship. Ray’s mentor was Tom Dorrance, who along with his brother Bill, are considered to be the godfathers of the modern Natural Horsemanship movement. Ten years later I attended horse shoeing school in northern California and continued to be mentored by Tom.
When Moon, the gray wolf, came to Wildworks as a shy young animal, I decided to use my training expertise to teach him the skills he needed to be sociable and travel to outreach programs. It was a long process, but, Moon became one of Wildworks’ most spectacular program ambassadors.
Although I was born in New York, my German parents and I moved back to Germany when I was just over a year old, and there I spent most of my youth. In 1982 I moved back to the U.S., first arriving in San Francisco. I traveled around California for a while, then settled in Venice, which I found to be too crowded (and dangerous). To avoid the crowds, I moved to Corral Canyon in Malibu, where it was too quiet and 20 minutes to the nearest market! Finally, I ended up in Hollywood, got married, and started my first volunteer job in 1986 at the Ethiopian Refugee Center in South Central LA.
There are no speed limits in Germany (where I learned to drive), so when I lost my license in California to speeding tickets, my wife and I moved to India for a year. We both loved to travel and moved again to Thailand for two years, where we explored southeast Asia. When we came back to Hollywood, the Ethiopian Center had closed down so I began volunteering at Meals on Wheels, and I’ve been working with them for seven years now. I had saved an advertisement from the L.A. Times that said Wildworks was looking for volunteers. I’ve always had pets and love animals, so in January 2006 I called The Nature of Wildworks and signed up. But I didn’t work with animals: I trimmed trees—lots of them--for about a year! It was a very worthwhile project, though, because I helped to greatly reduce the threat of fire in the oak forest surrounding the animal compound. One of my favorite animals at Wildworks is Foxy the fennec fox, and my best project so far has been building a brand new and much larger enclosure for little Foxy.
I have always loved animals and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where I had many wildlife encounters in my backyard and where I first experienced animal husbandry in highschool. I went to the Los Angeles Zoo Magnet Center and in my senior year I was fortunate enough to have a class that involved helping zoo keepers care for the Tapirs, Sumatran Tigers, Snow leopards and Flying foxes. Along with animals, I am interested in educational outreach and exhibition design. I have a B.A. in History and I plan on getting a Masters in Museum Studies. I hope to one day work in a museum or learning institution where I can help with educational programing and outreach. After receiving my B.A from Cal State Northridge I started volunteering at The Nature of Wildworks in 2009. Volunteering at The Nature of Wildworks has been a very rewarding experience. The animals and people at Wildworks are terrific and I am thrilled that I am able to combine my interest in education through outreach programs with my love of animals at Wildworks.
I am a native of Southern California and grew up in the San Fernando Valley, when there were still orange groves on the next block. I have always loved all animals. Growing up we had a dog, a duck and two chickens. Later on cats were added to our family. I actually started learning about and working with exotic and native wildlife as a Docent at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1997. Two years later I became a volunteer at a large wildlife sanctuary where I became proficient at pulling poop and changing water for many large cats. I also learned about enrichment and animal handling there. After 10 years at that location, I discovered that the Nature of Wildworks had a volunteer program. In February of 2010 I came for an orientation and have never left. I retired from the working world in May of 2010, and can now spend more time with the animals. At Wildworks I have done cage cleaning, enrichment and animal handling at outreach programs. I truly enjoy giving out enrichment and doing outreach programs. I feel very fortunate to be at Wildworks and, even though I came on the wildlife scene late in life, I very much appreciate the opportunity to learn about and interact with these wonderful animals. I like the opportunity to share information about wildlife and the Wildworks residents with the people I meet, and teaching them about coexisting with wildlife.
I was born and raised in northern California into a family affectionately referred to as “The Zerweck Zoo.” Animals have always been an important part of my life. I currently work as a freelance producer/production manager in television and film, but it’s the furry, feathered and finned creatures that are my true passion. In 2005, I created a non-profit animal newspaper, The Pet Gazette, promoting animal wellness, awareness, and rescue for both domestic and wild animals. Staying true to my family’s nickname, my home is often the recipient of orphaned raccoons, kittens, and other critters for surrogate care as well as housing my own brood of furry children. Over the past several years I have volunteered with many organizations, but the animals at the Nature of Wildworks have stolen my heart. I am honored to be part of such an extraordinary group of creatures, big and small, wild and tame, two-legged and four; a place where I can share a green bean with a fox, give a raccoon a rub, or listen to a puma purr. Being at Wildworks is an incredibly exquisite experience and much more rewarding than the red carpet!
I’m Mollie’s brother’s son, Patrick Hogan, which I suppose would make me her nephew. I began volunteering here at the very young age of 10 and have been doing it ever since in my spare time. I am now 19 and my girlfriend, Jessica, and I live up near Yosemite. Now we can both volunteer when we visit. Two for the price of one!
I’ve always had cats and dogs and have a snake named Bob but, when I came to Wildworks, I got the chance to raise a baby bobcat (Thunder) and coyotes (Trickster and Mesa). I’ve helped my Aunt Mollie with the shows and was the narrator of a cat training video. Now Jessica and I help her on the computer. I don’t have a favorite animal, since they’re all great. I’m also drummer, like my dad, and have played in various bands. My dad and I have side-by-side drumsets in his garage and we practice together—very loudly!
Monica Dunahee -
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Denise Lafey All my life I have loved animals including, but not limited to pet dogs, cats, canaries, parakeets, fish, hamsters, and a bunny. Along the way, I also was fortunate to bond with a mountain lion. Since then, mountain lions, especially, will always have a very special place in my heart. I recently learned about wildlife rescues when I found an injured opossum. From this experience, I visited various websites and found Nature of Wildworks. My recent retirement, after almost 20 years of teaching elementary school, gives me the time to help others who give so much of their time and hard work to care for the animals we all love, and I have the opportunity to spend time around my original favorites, the mountain lions and the opossums. Additionally, I am learning a great deal about so many other beautiful animals and can't help but fall in love with them all. My hope is that I can educate and inspire others to protect and care for our wildlife. I feel very, very blessed to have found this volunteer position.
I was born in New Jersey in the middle of a snow storm and spent the majority of my childhood seeing the USA as a "Navy Brat". We lived in towns where the Navy got there first and then later the little hick town got on the map. I was always surrounded by animals of all types, domestic and wild, and loved them all. Later circumstances dictated a move to New York City. I chose nursing for a career and studied through my post graduate degree at Hunter Bellevue. After school, New York and its weather patterns dictated a move to Santa Monica where I soon became a horse owner. He was stabled in Topanga and I often lamented that my horse had a better address then I did. During that time I was lucky enough to meet a trainer who was a Native American and who was able to put me and my crazy Arabian gelding together as a team. She taught me the "way" of animals. Hard work, patience, and a marvelous real estate agent allowed me to become a home owner in the best little mountain community ever and I added a cat to my family. I became a CERT member and enjoyed volunteering. Recently I retired and wanted to expand my volunteer hours to working with animals. Mollie was advertising for volunteers and it seemed like kismet. I'm learning new things every time I set foot in the compound. When I'm done for the day I'm always tired, filthy, and grinning from ear to ear.
I was born and raised in Chicago in a 3 bedroom house, one of which was dedicated solely to our family's pets. My twin sister and I developed a relentless love for animals at an early age and convinced our parents to get a fish...and then tortoises...and then snakes...and then frogs, lizards, another dog, etc until we had to share a room in order to accommodate everyone. We then started feeling bad for some of the crickets that were to be fed to our lizard and so hid a few fortunate ones under our bathroom sink.
To this day I would be hard-pressed to think of an animal I've met who I didn't love. I graduated college from UCSB and moved out to Los Angeles in 2013 where I promptly took up scuba diving and got to explore all sorts of wildlife I'd never seen before. Hearing about and seeing the devastation to many of these wild animals through habitat destruction, poaching, illegal breading, etc left me feeling like I need to do something to give back to them. I began looking for a place to volunteer and visited a couple of other rescue centers before coming to Nature of Wildworks. Immediately I felt at home here. Each of the furry and feathery residents have such personality and are treated like part of the family. The time I spend here on Saturdays is undoubtedly my favorite part of the week.