2019 Year in Review: Maggie McCartney, Wildlife Care Academy Coordinator

It’s time to look back on 2019! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2019 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

On August 22, Caroline asked me my favorite question: “are you available to help with a snake?”  My answer to that question is always yes, regardless of what I’m otherwise occupied with, but my enthusiasm increased when she explained that a woman had called to report a copperhead entangled in landscape netting. We don’t get very many opportunities to help venomous snakes, simply because they are less likely to be reported or rescued than nearly any other animal, but this brave and capable caller had already contained the snake along with the entangled netting in a bucket and was on her way. Being one of only a few staff members with formal venomous snake training, I am lucky enough to be called upon for many situations involving these animals. I have relocated rattlesnakes from around our building over the past couple of years, but this would be my first venomous patient since joining the Wildlife Center staff.

The copperhead arrived and was indeed thoroughly entangled. Dr. Ernesto and I gathered our tools (snake hooks, snake tubes, sharp surgical scissors) … and an audience of students and staff members. I held the snake with his head secured inside of a transparent tube while Dr. Ernesto carefully removed each strand of netting while patiently explaining venomous snake restraint and sedation to the group of onlookers. I half-listened, distracted by the absolute splendor of this animal and my incredible fortune to have the opportunity to be involved in aiding it. Luckily, the woman who rescued this snake did so before the netting caused any wounds or internal injuries. I was thrilled to be able to release this copperhead back into the area where it was found the following morning.

Many of our patients are dangerous, in some cases much more dangerous than a copperhead (eagles, Great Horned Owls, and bears, oh my!). Wildlife Center of Virginia staff work with these dangerous animals regularly and do so in a way that maintains the safety of staff, students, and the wildlife patients. I am often reminded of a quote that was shared with me early in my wildlife career: “Faith in technique is the religion of the dangerous trades,” (Thomas Harris, Hannibal). As a training specialist at a teaching hospital, I especially value our commitment to protocol and the opportunity to demonstrate how proper training, technique, and use of protective equipment allow us to help wild animals in need of care every day.

— Maggie, Wildlife Care Academy Coordinator

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!