2016 Year in Review: Kim Beard, Treatment Team Volunteer

It’s time to look back on 2016! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2016 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

This year end also marks the end of my fifth year of volunteering with the Treatment Team at The Wildlife Center of Virginia. I attended a volunteer orientation meeting in January of 2012 and started volunteering in … March? Anyway - I’m calling it five years now.

The original impetus for getting involved with The Wildlife Center in an actual hands-on way was my discovery - while investigating the website during the big 2011 year of the Rock Star Bald Eagle triplets - that it was actually possible to volunteer and physically interact with patients!  Being a resident of Central Virginia for over 40 years now, I was already a longtime supporter of WCV, but I had always assumed that volunteer work was limited to envelope stuffing and the like. Imagine my delight when I discovered I was wrong about that! Anyway - when I started volunteering I could hardly wait to get my hands on a Bald Eagle. I worked my way up in the skill of raptor grabbing, as volunteers do, starting with the adorable Eastern Screech-owl, and gradually progressing to larger and larger birds. I think the first Bald Eagle I actually held was the wonderful 27-year-old banded bird that was with us in the Spring of that year. I still use a photo of me holding that bird on occasion when an avatar is needed!

You can see I was happy to be holding a Bald Eagle!

So - time passes - I report on Friday mornings every week (unless I’m out of town somewhere) and I have held my fair share of Bald Eagles by now - and I have to honestly admit that my reaction to being asked to go and get an eagle out of its crate in Hold has gone from “Whee!!!” to something more like a groan. Why? Because eagles are BIG and usually ANGRY and holding them for treatment for any length of time is exhausting! To say nothing of the rather scary job of trying to grab one of them and get it out of its crate. Particularly if it’s in a crate that’s big enough for it to get so far to the back that I have to basically crawl half way in just to reach the very angry thing with very sharp talons and very strong feet. A miserably sick bird is easier to grab and hold onto while it’s being treated, of course, but ideally they don’t stay miserably sick for long, and as they heal they become progressively harder to deal with. So these days I’m delighted when there are no eagles to treat, and I celebrate their being moved out to flight pens and readied for release. On the other hand, I’ve also realized that I do still enjoy catching them up when they are in a flight pen. It’s fun to chase them and corner them and grab them by a leg. It’s fun to dream that I’ll one day manage to catch one in the air as it flies over my head - a feat I have only accomplished once, and not with a Bald Eagle. It was a Barred Owl and it was in one of the smaller pens called the C-pens. I reached up, grabbed the owl and was so astonished to find that I had actually caught it, I blurted out “WHOA!!” which made the vet and student waiting outside for me to get the bird say “Are you okay?” Okay? HA! I was tickled pink!

Anyway - as I write this piece that is supposed to be about this past year and maybe something memorable that happened in 2016 - The Wildlife Center has just announced the upcoming release of Bald Eagle #16-2439. As it happens, on Friday, December 16, I was lucky enough to accompany Dr. Peach and Joe (one of the current students) up to one of the flight pens to grab both of the eagles in there - BAEA #16-2439 for its pre-release blood work, and BAEA #16-2440 for radiographs. And I was lucky enough to be the one who managed to catch #16-2439. So I am pleased to say that I got to bid a personal farewell to this Bald Eagle, and to be one of the last people at WCV to get my hands on it! I can tell you that it is actually still a thrill and a privilege to be able to hold a Bald Eagle in my arms. Live long and prosper #16-2439! A fittingly memorable end to my fifth year of volunteering at The Wildlife Center of Virginia.


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