Out of My Comfort Zone

Coming to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, I had a strong passion for the environment and a love for marine life. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about the animals I’m surrounded by every day and how they may need my help. I had a lot of experience in education but hardly any in animal care, so I knew I was in for a treat.

My first day on the job was overwhelming to say the least; I couldn’t help but continuously ask myself “What have I gotten into?” Then after the first couple 12-13 hour days I was really asking myself “Can I even handle this for three months?” And yet here I am, 13 weeks later, dreading my last day at the Center.

Every day, I have conquered at least one fear. Whether it be capturing and restraining a fawn, a squirrel, a Great Horned Owl, or a Bald Eagle, there was never a quiet day at work. If I had to pick my hardest days here, it would have to be a fawn day. We would start out getting formula bottles ready for our 33 fawns, followed by chopping up enough apples to feed them. We would then have to carry this all up the dreadful steps to the deer yards and give them their food, medicine, and clean water … all while making sure they didn’t take their curiosity too far. I made the mistake one day of leaving the hallway door open while refilling water in one of the deer yards and within a split second I felt a huge slap on my chest and saw the body of a fawn go flying by me for the outside. Fortunately for me, this was a very food-motivated fawn that loved apples, he ran for the pile of food and started eating. I was able to get him back in the yard without a problem, but needless to say, I learned my lesson very quickly.

After bottle-feeding, it was time to collect browse -- tons of leafy branches to feed the fawns. I'm not a person who is used to being in the woods alone, and I often think every snap of a branch is a black bear, so this was not an easy task for me. Browsing takes anywhere from one to two hours in the hot and tick-infested woods. After we were doing in the morning … we'd do it all over again after lunch.

Some of my favorite days became raptor days. We have so many raptors at the Center and every day we have to exercise them, pick up leftover food, deliver new food, and sometimes hose the enclosure. When you do this two or three times a week, every week, you start to form a bond with the birds. You quickly learn who is stubborn and won’t fly, who never wants to eat their food, who loves to eat their food, and when you need to throw the food and run or else you might have a hawk flying right at your face. I found out there is no rush like trying to catch and restrain a raptor; it became one of my favorite things. This is something I am going to miss the most.

Working at the Wildlife Center of Virginia is one of the best experiences I have had since graduating college. I learned how much I love rehabilitation and I can see myself doing this again in the future. Getting pushed outside of my comfort zone has made me a better person and shows me how much I really am capable of. I am confident that all of the skills I have gained here have made me a better worker and will allow me to stand out more in this challenging field.

--Kelsey M.
WCV Class of 2017