2015 Year in Review: Dr. Dana Franzen, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2015! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2015 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Happy holidays!

My first six months as the veterinary intern at the Wildlife Center of Virginia have been very memorable! I can hardly believe December is here and now nearly gone; time flies when you are having fun. There have been several unique patients and fun memories; it is difficult to pick just a few to share.

One memorable patient arrived a month after I started: female American Black Bear #15-1651, more fondly known as “green tag”. When she arrived with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries officer, I wasn’t sure if she was alive. She was lying on her side, too weak to stand, non-responsive, and emaciated. She likely lost her mother and was too young to fend for herself. With Dr. Helen’s support, we decided to give her the best chance we possibly could. We placed an intravenous (IV) catheter and gave her IV fluids, dextrose in saline to increase her blood sugar, and IV hetastarch to replace the blood protein she lost due to starvation. After spending hours with her on the floor, we placed her in a comfy, warm bed for the night and crossed our fingers that she would be alive the next morning. Overnight, I was formulating my treatment plan, including ways to place a feeding tube to supply her with nutrition. When I arrived at the Center the following morning, I was shocked. Little green tag was chewing on the bars of her kennel and trying to dig her way out. She is quite the fighter! In six days, this little bear was too sassy to stay indoors, so she went outside and met her new big brothers. She has made a miraculous recovery, and will be ready to go back home to the wild next spring.



Another memorable patient is hatch-year female Bald Eagle #15-2015. This girl is also a fighter. She was found down and unresponsive in a landfill. After being initially stabilized by Dr. McCormick, a local veterinarian, she came to the Center with the help of many dedicated people, including Dr. Dorazio from the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center. On arrival, the eagle was unable to stand and was very weak. We believe she ingested a toxin in the landfill which caused her depression and weakness. With fluids and supportive care, she was able to remove the toxin from her system and started standing on her own the following afternoon. Within 36 hours her clinical signs were completely resolved! However, on radiographs, another obstacle was discovered. She had a large fishing hook in her ventriculus (stomach). Dr. Helen and I took her to surgery to remove the foreign body. We were isolating her ventriculus during surgery when suddenly the lights went out. And stayed out. Dr. Helen summarized our sentiments best when she said, “is this real life?!” So Dr. Helen and I, with the help of Dr. Dave, finished her surgery by flashlight and removed the fish hook successfully. I was blessed to have the opportunity to release her on December 22nd. Ed describes the feeling best – my heart did stop when I launched her to freedom. It was a wonderful, fulfilling experience to watch her fly free, back where she belongs.


My time at the Wildlife Center of Virginia has been one of my most rewarding career experiences to date. It is very gratifying to help an animal recover and return to its natural environment. I am having a wonderful time with my co-workers and new friends, I have learned a lot already, and I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge with the wide variety of veterinary students that come through our doors. I also greatly appreciate the amazing public support system the Center has. Without your support, I would not be able to successfully treat the variety of wildlife patients that need our aid.

--Dr. Dana

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