Where do I even begin? How do I cram into a blog post nearly three years of my life working at the Wildlife Center? Strangely these past few years seem like a long time, but also like time has moved at warp speed. One day I’m walking through the Center’s doors to begin a new adventure as an outreach coordinator, and the next I’m walking out and making my first steps toward a dream that I’ve had for a long time.
Wildlife Center of Virginia Blog
One of the things that attracted me to the outreach externship was the focus on human-wildlife interactions. I’m interested in the ways humans interact with the natural world, especially when it comes to other animals. Interactions can be both positive and negative, and I think that one of the most important things we do at the Wildlife Center is give people the knowledge required to turn a potentially-negative interaction into a positive one.
The way humans interact with their environment has always interested me. I’ve spent much of my life living in a rural area, surrounded by trees and the sweet sounds of wildlife – from the all- night chirping of crickets, to the loud screams of the Eastern Screech-owl (like the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s Alex and Pignoli).
After graduating from University College Dublin in Ireland with a Zoology degree, the next step for me was searching for work experience in as many aspects of wildlife biology as possible. My post-college journey has begun with an externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. I found it to be a rewarding experience, as well as a challenging uphill climb (no, literally, the place is built on a slope!).
During my time at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, one of the things that surprised me most was the internalization of the trials and tribulations of many patients within the Center. While working with wildlife, it is our job to vouch for the patients and decide what course of action is in the best interest of each individual animal – a job that should be taken very seriously! Plenty of times I found myself anxious and riddled with guilt, having many sleepless nights while thinking about all our patients and the struggles they were going through.
Part of our job as rehabilitation externs is providing patient enrichment. To enrich is to stimulate the animal’s senses in a way that’s slightly out of ordinary from its everyday life in an enclosure. For example, we might change perches in an eagle’s enclosure, or provide a paper towel roll stuffed with mouse goodies for an owl to tear into. There are so many different ways to give enrichment and excitement to our patients!
When I first arrived at the Wildlife Center, I had no idea what to expect. I think the thing that I should have anticipated, but didn’t, was standing all day.
From preparing meals and sorting blankets, to cleaning pens and creating enrichment; from exercising eagles and syringe-feeding baby rabbits, to soaking turtles and releasing fawns and songbirds, I embraced what all people who work hard to save wildlife do.
Now that is a question you don't hear very often. In fact, in all likelihood, this question probably makes no sense to you.
The shock came when I realized that since the Wildlife Center of Virginia was founded in 1982 -- 33 years ago -- I have now spent more than half of my entire life working at the Wildlife Center -- not just my adult life ... the whole thing!!