By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff
Robbie Thorson started at PAWS as a volunteer, then progressed to an internship before becoming a Seasonal Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator last summer.
A college graduate in biology, with a focus on ecology and evolution, Robbie will soon start his second six-month stint as a seasonal assistant rehabilitator. He takes us behind the scenes to reveal more about this vital hands-on role assisting permanent staff at PAWS Wildlife Center.
So Robbie, what does your average day look like?
Although there’s a pattern to each shift—administering meds, feeding, helping with intake exams (pictured right with an Osprey patient), fixing cages, cleaning—every day seems different because of the variety of species we see coming in and their individual needs.
One of the more physical activities seasonal assistants are assigned is cleaning the seabird pools, which involves wearing some super trendy bright yellow personal protective equipment and jumping right in! Not so bad when there are seabirds recuperating, but we also use these pools for Harbor Seal patients—they’re not so house-proud!
We also work with the wildlife center interns, assigning them daily duties, so you get some people management experience as well.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
The thing I love most is the variety it provides—and the opportunity to get hands on with many species that I didn’t have the chance to work with as either a volunteer or intern. From bear cubs to Bobcats, Bald Eagles to Harbor Seals, every day brings a new and fascinating learning experience.
There’s also room for progression here. During my time in college I worked a lot with birds, which is great because we see many birds coming into PAWS Wildlife Center and I can apply my knowledge in a professional setting. But now I also have so much additional knowledge and experience thanks to assisting with the care of mammals, marine mammals, reptiles… whatever comes through the door in need of our help.
Undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I experience first-hand is the transformation of a wild animal in need of urgent care to a healthy animal ready to go back into the wild. There can be touch and go moments along the way but when it comes to the release day (weeks or months later), you get an amazing buzz knowing you’ve had a part to play in that animal’s rehabilitation and return to its natural habitat.
Robbie (far left) assisting with a raccoon release
Has there been a stand-out experience for you?
In October 2014, we were involved in the rehabilitation and care of a juvenile male Steller Sea Lion, found stranded on a beach in need of help. Caring for this species was a first for PAWS, and a pretty special moment in my time here!
As a seasonal assistant, I was called on to help with the handling of the sea lion—a great privilege. In his early days with us he was very weak and hardly struggled when we were needed to help with feeding or health checks, but just days later it took two or three people to handle him!
A few weeks after his arrival, I helped prepare him for transfer to a marine mammal center in California, where he would continue his rehabilitation with other sea lions. All in all—a pretty amazing experience, and an example of how varied this job can be. One day you’re syringe-feeding baby squirrels, the next you’re assisting with a Steller Sea Lion!
Watch footage of our first ever Steller Sea Lion, and his rehabilitation story, here.
Who would be well-suited to this role?
If you’re interested in wildlife rehabilitation as a career, I’d definitely recommend applying for this position at PAWS. You do hit the ground running when you start, so some prior experience would be helpful. I found it really useful to have started as a volunteer and worked my way up.
PAWS wildlife center is the only rehabilitation center in Washington State equipped with immediate and continual veterinary expertise and services, all in-house. It’s a great place to work, and a fantastic organization to have on your resume.
Think this might just be the right job for you? We’re accepting applications for this seasonal position (April 1-September 30 2015) until Friday, February 13. Find out more and apply today.
Find out more about wildlife rehabilitation at PAWS.
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