2022 Year in Review: Ashlee Ott, Development Associate

It’s time to look back on 2022! Check our blog between now and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2022 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Many things that happen at the Wildlife Center are memorable for many, as it takes a lot of hands and minds to make magic happen for the endless wildlife patients we see day in and day out. However, Monday, February 21 is a day that stands out to me as my favorite memory during my first year working at the Center. Most of the time, I am behind a computer processing donations, handling donor questions, and preparing mailings so we can get the word out about the life-saving work that goes on inside these four walls.

February 21 looked much different for me because I got to shadow the rehab and vet teams on what they call “feet and feather rounds.” This happens weekly, typically on Mondays. They go into each of the patient enclosures to do a general check on the patient’s well-being and examine each bird’s talons and feathers. I learned that day how the quality of a bird’s feathers (and talons) can indicate good or bad health. The staff weigh each bird, count every feather, check for sores or any abnormalities on their talons, and make notes as they work diligently to move on to the next patient.

After watching as the rehab team caught and brought out patients one by one for this procedure to be done, Dr. Jenn, one of our veterinary interns, asked if I wanted to give it a go. I remember the nerves running through me, but feeling excited to experience something I never had and maybe never will experience again.

I have a soft spot in my heart for owls of all kinds. Great Horned Owls, screech-owls … you name em’, I love em’! Although I felt very skittish and childlike, I wanted to be sure that I was maintaining a professional demeanor with whichever patient I’d be handling. These are wild patients whom we wish to get into better health so they can return to the wild and be free as they deserve. As I kept reminding myself of this, I walked into the enclosure and followed the instructions given by Dr. Jenn on how to capture and hold the bird properly. In a matter of moments, I successfully caught a Barred Owl. A BARRED OWL! Now, I like to think that I am in tune with nature and the natural world around me, but holding such a beautiful and mystic creature really put things into perspective for me. It was in that moment that I felt this tremendous tug on my heartstrings and felt so thankful to be a part of this owl’s journey to recovery. After only a short month of being at the Center, I realized that I indeed was in the right place.

We humans are in their world and we continuously push ourselves into their home ranges which limits their survival and often causes harm. We owe it to them (and all of our wildlife patients) to advocate and care for them, educate the world about our choices, and rehabilitate them to give them a second chance.

This Barred Owl had no story out of the ordinary of its own, but it will forever be a part of one my favorite stories to tell.

Thank you, Barred Owl, for you have gifted me a special memory and a reminder as to why we all do what we do at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, no matter the position.

— Ashlee Ott, Development Associate

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