By Jen Mannas, Wildlife Naturalist
Working at a wildlife rehabilitation center is much like working in an emergency room. It is fast paced, you never know what will come through the front door, and many patients need life-saving procedures and medication.
Summer is our busiest time of year. We can receive in upwards of 50 patients in one day and the species can range from a baby hummingbird to a black bear. During this time of year, our rehabilitation staff doubles in size and we welcome 15 wildlife care and baby bird interns, veterinarian externs, veterinarian tech interns and hundreds of volunteers. The baby bird nursery is now open and we can have hundreds of patients in our care at one time at different stages of needed treatment. Many of our patients are awaiting surgery, others are babies being raised, some are still healing and require medication and others are being conditioned for release.
Juvenile raccoon being weighed.
Although we are not open to the public until 8:00 a.m., our day starts hours before. The rehabilitation staff is the first to arrive followed by our interns, volunteers and additional staff members. The morning is spent getting caught up on the new patients who arrived the previous day as well as weighing, medicating and feeding the patients in the hospital ward. Feedings in our baby bird and mammal nurseries begin at 8:00 a.m. and continue until 8:00 p.m. with 20 to 100 youngsters being fed at different intervals throughout the day.
Volunteer feeding baby birds.
The rehab staff meets with the veterinarian team each morning to discuss the patients in vet care and to exchange any updates. The vet team then sets the priority of each patient on their list by deciding who will be seen and in what order with special attention to the types of needed procedures, such as surgeries and rechecks. The team is on the move all day long seeing and treating patients to ensure they meet all of their needs.
Dr. Bethany Groves treating a Western Pond Turtle who has Ulcerative Shell Disease.
By mid-morning the center starts to get even busier with more staff and interns showing up that need to be updated on what has happened already that day. At this point, volunteers are busy cleaning cages, preparing diets, keeping up with the nurseries’ feeding schedule, making repairs and doing laundry.
Baby Bird Nursery volunteer folding laundry.
By early afternoon, a entirely new group of volunteers show up, the morning volunteers go home and the afternoon chores begin. This means more feeding, cleaning, refreshing diets, medications and doing laundry.
Meanwhile, the seasonal rehabilitators are busy cleaning up after, enriching and feeding the bears and bobcats in our outdoor run enclosures. This can take hours and consumes most of their day. The rehabilitators are giving exams to new patients and performing patient cage checks while volunteers and staff are taking patients out for release. In addition, our front-line staff are talking to visitors, checking in animals and answering the phone.
Rehabilitators giving a Bald Eagle its initial exam.
Some days we have volunteer work groups, led by our facilities manager, helping us with outdoor chores. Educational programs stop by to learn about what we do in the wildlife center and about the species we treat. New volunteer recruits are trained several times a week.
Microsoft intern work group.
At 5:00 p.m. there is another shift change and new volunteers arrive while early morning staff go home. The evening shift consists of more laundry, finishing daily tasks, taking out trash, cleaning the kitchen, refreshing diets, administering any medications and prepping for the next day.
At any point and time at the center, there can be between 10 and 25 people caring for patients, most of which are volunteers. Without our dedicated volunteers, we would not be able to keep up the high quality of care that we provide to all our patients. They are the backbone of our organization and we can’t express how much we appreciate them.
Volunteers and staff releasing Black Tailed Deer.
Our day ends sometime after 10:00 pm when the chores are complete, animals are medicated and fed and the center is tidy.
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