2023 Year in Review: Liz Duffy, Wildlife Rehabilitator

It’s time to look back on 2023! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2023 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

While I have some experience training animals, I did not quite expect to be using my knowledge to the degree that I did this past year. We admitted Red Fox #22-2818 in October 2022 as a juvenile who had illegally been kept as a pet. This unfortunately led her to lose her fear of people and she became habituated. Which ultimately, made her non-releasable.

The rehabilitation team began our adventure to begin training this fox in the hopes that she would be able to acclimate appropriately to life in captivity as an education animal at a permanent facility. None of us could have imagined the joy that training her brought us. We started with simple target training, which would help her carry out a variety of behaviors in a captive setting, such as getting a voluntary weight or shifting to a different space. While using multiple approximations to get her to perform the desired behavior, I got the opportunity to learn her personality. Being rehabilitators, we do not often get to interact with patients in a way that elicits a positive reaction to our presence. She began displaying excited and “play” behaviors when she saw us coming around for her training sessions. This would range from zoomies to full-on yips and vocalizations. She became the highlight of my stressful early baby season days.

Through our time together she was successfully target trained, station trained, and also got halfway to being crate trained! We all enjoyed our time with her to the fullest. She was thankfully accepted to the Norfolk Zoo and moved to her permanent home there at the end of June, where she received the name "Pip." I know Pip will always have a special place in my heart. While not all habituated patients have such a happy ending, I am very grateful that I got the time to interact with her.

– Liz Duffy, Wildlife Rehabilitator 

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