Marley is a front-desk coordinator at the Wildlife Center. She serves as the voice of the Wildlife Center to the public by answering calls and emails; dispensing advice on how best to help injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife; counseling citizens on how to most effectively live with their wild neighbors; greeting lobby visitors; and admitting patients to the Center's busy hospital.
How did you come to work at the Wildlife Center? What’s your background?
I spent several years in my teens working with dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. I loved every second of this work, but as time went on I came to realize what career path I truly wanted to follow -- helping wildlife and educating others on the importance of wildlife. This passion led me to a 12-week rehabilitation externship here at the Wildlife Center! Then those 12 weeks breezed by, I was so sad to say goodbye, but was so excited when I learned that there was a need for a front-desk coordinator just as my externship came to a close.
What’s the most challenging part of being a front-desk coordinator?
The most challenging part of being a front-desk coordinator is communicating challenging and often upsetting news to the public. When someone rescues an animal and brings it to our hospital, our veterinarians do the best they can to provide the best treatment for that patient. However, sometimes the best thing we can do for an injured animal is to end its suffering, as not every injury is repairable. Of course, everyone hopes the best for the animal they brought in, and it can be hard being the person responsible for communicating this information to the public.
What’s the best part of being a front-desk coordinator?
There are many wonderful aspects of the job. One of the best parts is when we can solve a wildlife-human conflict through education. We often receive calls from members of the public with "nuisance" wildlife, like yearling bears getting into garbage cans or skunk families taking up residence under a back deck. We are typically able to talk with the caller about the natural history of the animals, why they might be exhibiting the behavior they are, and ways we can naturally deter the animals without harming them, separating a family, or relocating them. It's nice to leave at the end of the day knowing that while there are animals back in the clinic getting the help they need, there are also animals that, because of us, will remain happy and healthy out in the wild where they rightfully belong.
What’s the ONE thing you’d like to emphasize to everyone who may ever encounter a baby animal?
One thing I really try to explain to people is that baby animals do not have the same needs as baby humans or domestic pets. We cannot compare baby wildlife to humans or our pets, because they have vastly different natural histories. Baby wildlife should never be kept or even fed by members of the public who are untrained and do not hold wildlife rehabilitation permits. Consuming the wrong kind of formula, aspirating formula into the lungs, being cuddled and petted -- all of these things can mean the difference between life and death for that wild baby animal. Always contact a professional before taking any action.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to work in the wildlife field?
Educate yourself and be prepared to work hard! Working with wildlife is a big commitment and hard, hard work, but it is the most rewarding thing I have done in my life. Read up on all of the different ways you can get involved. If you have a local wildlife center, apply to be a volunteer! If you do not live near one, branch out! There are many internship opportunities all over the world, many with volunteer housing available! Lastly, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Ten months ago I had no wildlife experience whatsoever. Now, each day brings a new challenge, whether that is to help a feisty eagle or even a tiny Deer Mouse. I'm solving wildlife conflicts daily, educating the public, and sometimes, my own friends and family! Working in the wildlife field is always a learning experience, and working at the Wildlife Center of Virginia has truly changed my life.