2012 Year in Review: Kelli Knight, Wildlife Rehabilitator

Last year, many of our staff, students, and volunteers recounted their most memorable moments of 2011. We had so much fun reading and sharing these stories, we thought we’d do it again! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2012 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center.

Calling All Volunteers!

Summer was ending and I was dreading the last weekend in August. My amazing group of rehab externs was leaving me – each of these college students had volunteered eight weeks of their summer break at the Wildlife Center and were here to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation. It was time for the last of them to go back to school, and I was missing them already. Their dedication and energy made my job overseeing the care of more than 200 animals each day during the summer possible and so much fun.

This year, the wildlife didn’t seem to realize that summer was coming to a close. It was late August, yet we were still rehabilitating more than 170 animals!  There were fawns to collect browse for, passerines to feed every 15 minutes, three black bears, baby bunnies to tube-feed morning and night, more than a dozen reptiles, 15 orphaned squirrels to syringe feed up to 4 times a day, numerous juvenile raptors to flight condition and put through live prey school, and more than 40 baby opossums. On top of this work load there was the usual cadre of education ambassadors to care for, meal preparation, cleaning cages, hosing pens, capture and restraint, weights to record, and animal enrichment to organize.

With this case load we would start at 7:00 am each day and would be lucky to finish by 7:00 pm – and that was with a full staff that included a staff rehabilitator, rehabilitation intern, and four or five externs working in high gear for 12 hours while loving every minute of it. So I could not believe my eyes when there were only two staff names on the schedule for the last weekend in August. What a nightmare, only the rehabilitation intern and I were scheduled since our externs were gone!  How in the world were just two people going to give so many patients the quality care they deserve?  Then, someone threw out the idea that maybe there were Wildlife Center volunteers that could help us out …

Our outreach department sent out a group email with the subject line: “Wildlife Center of Virginia - Calling all Volunteers!!!”  The e-mail pleaded, “You are receiving this email because you are listed as one of the volunteers at the Wildlife Center of Virginia and we need your help!”  The email went out at 11:03 am and I had my first response within ten minutes. Twelve more people replied on the first day. I could not believe the overwhelming response of “Oh I am so there”, “Put me down on the schedule”, “Whatever you need”, and “I’d love to help.”  Volunteers were willing to come from out-of-state while others were going to drive for hours and stay in a hotel in order to be there to help us out. I was undeniably impressed and amazed as the offers for help continued to roll in.

When that weekend arrived, the volunteers who helped me out exceeded all my expectations. Despite having no prior training, they were eager, open-minded and willing to pitch in wherever they were needed. This included trying new things like chopping up mice for our carnivores, chasing raptors around our flight pens to exercise them, and romping through the woods to cut down sassafras branches for our fawns. Each one of our volunteers rolled up their sleeves and did everything I asked with no complaints and a smile on their face.

Sharing with them what I do everyday made me appreciate my job even more, and the best part of the experience was making some new friends along the way. A HUGE thank you to the dedicated, passionate, and fantastic volunteers of August 25th and 26th:  Jeanne, Mary Jane, Christopher, Charlotte, Sharon, Kim, Dianne, Pat, and Dave.

--Kelli Knight

Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!

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