2017 Year in Review: Dr. Peach Van Wick, Wildlife Research Fellow

It’s time to look back on 2017! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2017 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Wow, 2017. So much has happened during these twelve months, it’s hard for me to choose what to write about!  The veterinary department underwent a ridiculous amount of change this past year that all started with the departure of our beloved Dr. Dave [who we all miss and continue to keep in touch with]!  My dear Ernesto soon stepped up into the role of the Hospital Director (a very impressive feat, by the way, which he has handled with such poise and authority) and I was asked to stay on as the Veterinary Fellow.  Amidst all the transition, our hospital received a much-needed facelift and the Wildlife Center had the rewarding, yet intimidating task of being the host organization for the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association conference.  This summer, we had the pleasure of adding two interns, Drs. Monica and Alexa, to our team of veterinarians, Dr. Ernesto took a much-needed vacation with his sister and brother, and I headed south for my ten-year high school reunion (OMG!) in Pearl, MS.

But the real highlight of the year for me has been all the bears. From the first neonatal cub admission on January 23rd to the release of our not-so-mangy adult bears on March 1st and another on June 5th  – and all the rest in between – it has been a fun-filled, memorable year!  When that first little potato-sized cub (#17-0073) was dropped off at our Center, I remember finding myself thinking for the one-millionth time, “How did I get so lucky to find myself working at a place that I love with the most incredible animals?”  Not long after that little cub left our care and was successfully adopted by another mama bear in the wild (thank you, VDGIF!), more orphaned cubs started rolling in!  One night, near the end of another 14-hour long day, I remember finding Brie getting ready to bottle-feed one of our new cubs.  We both sat down on the floor of radiology, exhausted, and I watched her wrangle this little black ball of fuzz with a bottle of formula.  At that moment, I asked Brie if she ever imagined herself experiencing this moment.  Had she ever thought that her actual job in life would be to comfort and feed a couple-week-old Black Bear cub?  Her answer, of course, was no.  What a memory.

Equally as exciting as the admission of our roly-poly cubs were the two times this year we were able to release adult bears – bears that made HUGE transformations during their time at WCV.  Both bears I’m referring to (#16-1817 and #17-1298) were admitted due to mange, a terrible skin condition caused by mites, and both looked 100% different when they were released - see pics!  Our most recently released “mangy” bear (17-1298) is actually the inspiration for the majority of the work I’ve been focusing on lately -- a new drug to treat mange in bears!  Yay for bears of 2017!


Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this year’s loss of my favorite little education ambassador, Phebe.  That little opossum touched my heart as an extern and I continued to fall in love with her one-eyed, short-tailed, petite personality during my time as a WCV employee.  I was fortunate enough to be with Raina on Phebe’s last day with us on September 22nd as we watched her suffering disappear.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us.  Happy holidays to all!

--Dr. Peach

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!