NewsLocal News


The Northern Colorado Wildlife Center: A vision decades in the making

Northern Colorado Wildlife Center
Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 20:31:53-05

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — When Tallon Nightwalker opened the doors of the Northern Colorado Wildlife Center hospital in September 2022, you could say he was meeting his destiny.

“You know, I wanted to be an astronaut, but my parents named me Tallon,” he laughed. “So here I am, working in a wildlife center.”

Beyond his "wild" name, wildlife rehabilitation is also in his blood. His father, Bob Nightwalker, has worked with wildlife in Northern Colorado for decades, and much of the time, Tallon was right by his side.

That is how Denver7 first met the Nightwalkers. We interviewed the two more than 18 years ago as they were helping to rehabilitate a pelican that nearly froze in a Windsor lake. Tallon, who was 10 years old at the time, had found his passion for helping injured wildlife.

Tallon Nightwalker at 10 years old
Tallon Nightwalker at 10 years old, telling Denver7 about a pelican he and his father had rehabilitated

He’s come a long way in the last 18 years. He now sprouts a full beard — a “neanderthal” touch, as he puts it — the product of both adulthood and a job that allows for no time off.

Tallon is the director of the Northern Colorado Wildlife Center, and has two employees: his father, and Rescue Coordinator Michela Dunbar, whom he recently hired.

For years, they operated out of a spare bedroom, tending to all of the creatures they could fit while simultaneously fundraising for their bigger vision. In September, that vision came to fruition with the purchase of their own facility in Fort Collins.

“I’m very proud,” father Bob Nightwalker said. “He’s worked really hard to get the experience and the knowledge that he did. And he’s worked really hard to get us from a bedroom to a facility.”

At any given time, the Northern Colorado Wildlife Center team will be intaking and caretaking for dozens of animals, ranging from snakes, lizards, birds, bats and more. This year, they anticipate taking in more than 3,000 animals, each needing different and special care.

Goose with leg brace
A Canada Goose treated by the Northern Colorado Wildlife Center after being hit by a car in Fort Collins

“I really love that we can all work together to save thousands of animals every year from the state, and get them released back in the wild,” Tallon said. “They can then bring future generations of wildlife for our children to enjoy.”

Northern Colorado Wildlife Center is one of just two wildlife rehabilitation centers in Larimer County, and Tallon said all statewide rehabbers form a very tightknit community. Each are often overworked and operating on slim budgets, but driven with an intense passion for saving animals.

Tallon said up to 3,000 injured animals were being euthanized in Larimer and Weld counties each year before their facility opened, simply because there was nowhere for them to go.

“That was the flame under us that said, ‘OK, we’ve got to have a hub for these animals to go. We’ve got to get them some kind of help,’” he said. “If we don’t act soon, these animals are gonna start being gone forever.”

The Northern Colorado Wildlife Center receives some grants, but operates largely on individual donations. Tallon said all money received is greatly appreciated, and helps cover not only medical care costs for the animals but also educational outreach for the humans around them. The goal, he said, is to empower the people of Northern Colorado to prevent wildlife injuries in the first place.

“When 90 percent of the animals need help because of some kind of human activity, we want to be able to be the humans that are part of the solution for these animals, rather than the humans that are part of the problem,” Tallon said.

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.