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.
In March 2018, I joined the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s team. Looking back at this year, some of the best moments I have had were the times I was able to release recovered patients. I have released four Woodland Box Turtles, two Snapping Turtles, a Painted Turtle, an Eastern Ratsnake, three Cottontails, a Gray Squirrel, a Chipping Sparrow, a Mourning Dove, and a Brown Thrasher. Each patient had healed from significant trauma or disease and was ready to return to the wild.
My favorite releases are the ones where I have a connection to the patient the whole way through – like Snapping Turtle #18-0557, who I originally rescued from the side of the road on my way home from work one evening. That release was particularly special because veterinary intern Dr. Monica Madera and vet technician intern Jenna Larios were both there for the release along with me.
At the Wildlife Center, our hope for every patient is eventual release. We aim to send recovered wildlife back into the world where they belong. By being wild again, they can engage in normal patterns and behaviors, their genetics can contribute to future generations, and they can participate in the ecosystem in which they belong.
Depending on the species, wild animals have varying degrees of social or interactive behavior with conspecifics (members of the same species) – meaning, Snapping Turtle #18-0557 may not have “missed her friends”. Still, I know that returning to the wild must feel good to them. Having completed their recovery, being returned to a life where they can engage with their natural environment and participate in normal interactions with others who speak their language, is a better experience for them than being housed in captivity.
In some ways, finding my place at the Wildlife Center has been a similar experience for me. Becoming a part of this community, getting to know the people who make possible all the amazing things that happen here, and having an impact on conservation, I’m in my natural environment! I have found my conspecifics! Each time I have the honor of returning one of our recovered patients to the wild, I am reminded to appreciate how good it feels to be where you belong.