2013 Year in Review: Kelsey Pleasants, Wildlife Rehabilitation Intern

It’s time to look back on 2013! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2013 from the staff, students, and volunteers of the Wildlife Center.

The end of 2013 marks the half-way point of my wildlife rehabilitation internship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. I’ve witnessed and been a part of many amazing things this year at WCV, and it’s hard to name just one memorable moment ... so I won’t; I’ll pick two.

I’ve always enjoyed watching patients’ journeys from admission to release, but they are not animals that I can spend my time with other than a quick pick-up, exercise, and feeding. We readily avoid any behavior towards patients that would cause them to become habituated with us and negatively affect their chances of release. However, the Center is home to numerous permanent education ambassadors who I can easily spend my time with. I cherish being able to visit these animals at my leisure, speak to them, and care for them.

Becoming the wildlife rehabilitation intern has allowed me to begin caring for our staff-only animals that I did not get a chance to work with in my previous externship. Since I am one of a handful of people who get to care for these animals, they have easily become my favorites – but two animals in particular stick out in my mind: Buddy the Bald Eagle and Opossum #13-2013 -- or as I affectionately call her -- Baby Girl.

It’s not just these two animals themselves that are my most memorable time of 2013, it’s been having a hand in their training. Our Outreach staff is amazing and spends much of their time working with and training our education ambassadors, and they have been gracious enough to allow me to work with Buddy and Baby Girl as well.

Buddy started a training program earlier this year and had made a lot of progress with his behavior. However, when he began molting midway into the year, his training was put on hold. It was during this time that Outreach decided to work on Buddy’s behavior inside his enclosure during his feeding times, which would mainly be done by me and Jessica Roberts (the other rehab intern at the time). The first few weeks of training Buddy was frustrating and a little bit terrifying, to say the least. Buddy had few manners, was extremely food-driven, and was anxious to eat – all factors which led him to fly at the door when I tried entering his enclosure. After the first few weeks of training, Buddy started significantly improving, and Jessica and I were able to walk right up to him to feed him. It’s still a daily process with Buddy, but he continues to exhibit good behavior. I have definitely developed a fondness for that bird, and am proud to have been able to help work with him these past few months.

Baby Girl [now Phebe] was admitted to the Center mid-July as a wee 35-gram baby opossum. Throughout her development, staff members noticed that she had a bacterial infection in her right eye. When the infection didn’t respond to medication, the veterinarians decided to remove her eye, which made her non-releasable. The decision was made to keep the opossum and work with her as an education ambassador candidate. I remember finding out that there was a baby opossum I could cuddle and baby-talk to my heart’s content – and I found that little gem in a basket on my desk. The deed was done, my heart was sold. Every chance I got I handled Baby Girl, determined to get her used to people, so much so that my colleagues sometimes refer to me as her mom. Though she now lives in an outdoor enclosure and is no longer in that little basket, I continue visiting and working with Baby Girl every time I get the chance. She always brightens my day. She’s a great fit to the WCV ambassador team, and I’m proud to be able to work with her.

These first six months of my internship have been more than I imagined, and I can’t wait to see what the next six months have in store.


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

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