2021 Year in Review: Dr. Jenn Yu, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2021! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2021 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

This is probably cheating because it’s so recent, but I wanted to share a moment that seems small but feels personally significant to me. Much of the time in wildlife rehabilitation, we work with patients with considerable trauma or who are extremely emaciated or critically debilitated. Unfortunately, we often see cases go south despite our best efforts at medical treatment and care. We frequently have what feel like medical failures, even though letting go of a patient is usually the kindest outcome for that animal. The field can be fraught with a lot of emotional fatigue and burnout. For these reasons, I often find myself making the most out of every little thing that goes right, and celebrating each small victory as a success.

We admit bat patients for a variety of reasons: sometimes for trauma, sometimes for being juveniles who shouldn’t quite be on their own just yet, sometimes for being trapped in people’s homes. One recent patient was a male Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) that we admitted in early December after being found in someone’s attic. At this time of year, Big Brown Bats are starting to hibernate, and he may have just settled in an inconvenient spot. Bats can be a challenging patient in rehab because they can be quite stressed, can be difficult to treat medically, and tend to not eat well in captivity. Typically, with bats, we hand-feed them mealworms until they’ve learned to eat on their own in this unnatural setting. Luckily, this patient was a champ at eating! Hand-feeding him (with forceps) each night was my favorite way to decompress and wind down each day. Getting a bat (or any patient, really) to eat might seem small, but feels like such a rewarding feat, especially if they’ve been inappetant for a while, or it’s a medically challenging case. Eating means that they’re feeling well enough to keep going! If you’ve never seen a bat gorging himself on mealworms, it’s one of life’s most satisfying experiences.

— Dr. Jenn Yu, Veterinary Intern

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