It’s time to look back on 2018! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2018 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
This has been my first full year here at the Wildlife Center. It has been filled with so many wonderful memories. I think one moment that stands out was early in the spring when one of our Bobcat patients was ready to be released.
A group of staff members went with on the release to a site just outside of Richmond. The drive down was fun, getting to know more about my coworkers that I had recently met in the prior few months. At the release site, we set up the crate and a few cameras to capture video footage of the Bobcat as she returned to the wild. She took off like a rocket, running beautifully into the nearby forest. She even left cute little tracks (insert pic). It was such a successful and memorable release. We all gathered back into the car feeling accomplished and ready for the drive back to the Center. Little did we know that our drive would end up taking a turn for the worse – we were just outside of Charlottesville when the traffic caught up with us. We crept along the highway for about an hour until we reached a complete standstill. We were stuck on the highway with no escape exit in sight. So we waited and waited … in total, for two-and-a-half hours! The police began diverting traffic to the other side of the highway so we could get off and use the back roads. Although this memory may not seem so great to some, it taught me so much about my coworkers. During that entire time stuck in the car, not a single person complained or became upset. We all kept our spirits up. Maybe it was because we were still so pumped up from releasing the Bobcat or maybe it is because the Wildlife Center is filled with such optimistic, resilient people. I like to think the latter and that my coworkers are pretty unique! This was just one of several incidences that displayed how amazing this group truly is.
Another incident that I am sure most are you are aware of is the ice storm that hit us this past November. The day started out normal and I remember even sending a picture to a friend of all the cold rain we were getting. As the day drew on, we noticed the power was cutting in and out. Dr. Ernesto pulled the veterinary team into the library for a scheduled presentation on how to handle disasters. He was presenting this topic that weekend at our Call of the Wild conference. We had made it through three steps in his presentation when a student ran in saying that a tree had fallen on Maggie’s enclosure!
Immediately, we all bolted up out of our seats and ran outside. You could hear branches cracking and snapping all around us. My fight or flight response kicked in. Maggie was trapped and we had to get her out. I vaguely remember someone telling me to get the tall net from the big A pens. I ran up the hill faster than I thought I could run, grabbed the net and ran back down. I passed off my net and began gathering students inside. Our main goal was to keep everyone safe. Dr. Karra and I ran with crates up to the education opossums. Trees kept falling. The path we took up to get them was now unsafe and covered in branches, but the open path was icy and had an overhang of branches waiting to fall. We had to act fast. We were able to get our sweet opossums down safely. Now we had to get the rest of the education ambassadors inside. While my coworkers were carrying Buddy inside a tree fell just a few feet in front of them. Luckily, we were able to get everyone inside safely – both education animals and patients.
Looking back on this chaotic day, I cannot express how grateful I am for my entire team. Everyone was pitching in to help. Administrative and front desk staff were setting up crates and making sure every cage was labeled with the animal inside. The veterinary team paired with outreach to ensure all education animals were safe and secure. Not only did everyone remain calm and collected but also not a single person or animal was hurt. To top it off we hosted a successful conference amidst this natural disaster.
It seems that no matter what life throws at this group, whether that be a traffic jam, an ice storm, a prolonged power outage, or a foot of snow overnight, they all are able to handle it with dignity and positivity. I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful team and cannot wait to see what we will tackle in 2019!