When I received a call from Kate in December of 2015 asking if I’d be interested in a front-desk coordinator substitute position in the New Year, I had no idea how my life was about to change! Of course, I said “Yes!”, having volunteered in animal care at the Wildlife Center since moving to the area late in 2013 and I was interested in being a part of the staff, even if in a very small way.
Wildlife Center of Virginia Blog
When I came for a rehabilitation externship with the Wildlife Center of Virginia, I was excited about the focus on exotic species care, which strongly correlates with my desire to care for and heal animals while respecting their natural tendencies and importance to the environment. Ultimately, I accepted the externship due to my deference for that which is wild and a willingness to preserve it.
I had no idea what to expect upon my arrival at the Wildlife Centre of Virginia. I have had my fair share of experiences working at various zoological collections -- places with thousands of animals and only a handful of staff to well-staffed organizations that specialise in only one or two species. I had never worked in a wildlife Centre until I came to Virginia.
The busiest time in the Center's ICU, which serves as the Center's nursery, is in the spring. The busiest time, more than 100 young animals may be housed in that room, and the first feedings of the day can last until noon!
A run-down of a morning in ICU:
Wow, three months have flown by. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was arriving and driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time. Being born and raised in Illinois, the mountains were a pleasant change of scenery. I couldn’t have been happier with my new home for three months. I was going to be a wildlife rehabilitation extern at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Before I got here, people would ask me “so what exactly are you going to be doing?” And I realized that I didn’t have an answer for them.
When I first started my rehabilitation externship, I thought that working in the ICU would mean mostly taking care of baby squirrels, which I was more than fine with because I loved working with them. Then we got in our first group of baby opossums and I suddenly had a new favorite species to work with.
While working at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, I got the chance to see the progress of many patients. Some prognoses were happy; some were not. One of my favorites was a Red-Tailed Hawk, #15-1805. This bird had a stubborn streak and would often refuse to fly when being exercised. We would often have to persuade it to continue laps in the flight pen during exercise by using a pool noodle. The bird would also complain by making high-pitched, chirping noises that were cute rather than threatening. When #15-1805 did fly, you could see an obvious wing tilt to the right.
During my three-month rehabilitation externship with the Wildlife Center of Virginia I have seen the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of many animals, including three Eastern Screech-owls, two Great Horned Owls, one Cooper’s Hawk, one Ruddy Duck, one Canada Goose, three Big Brown Bats, one Virginia Opossum, and one Mink ... and so many more releases are planned for the near future! All of this left me wondering what happens to these animals after they are released back into the wild? Do they make it out there on their own? Where do they go? What do they do?
The Wildlife Center of Virginia went to the fair this year and as you might expect, things got wild!