It’s time to look back on 2019! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2019 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
While I haven’t had an entire year to reflect on at the Center, the last five months have been very memorable. Obviously, one of the top highlights of this year was being hired and welcomed into the WCV family! Beyond that, I’ve had an incredible time with Rowan, our brand-new education ambassador Red-tailed Hawk.
When I first started, Raina had primarily been working with Rowan, previously known as RTHA #19-0943. After she moved on from the Center, I became Rowan’s primary handler.
Working with wild animals, whether in a captive collection or a rehabilitation setting, is something that is so special and unique. These animals have it literally engrained in their being to stay away from us – and there I was, asking this raptor to trust me and come closer. While I cannot know exactly what Rowan is thinking, I can’t imagine the wild thoughts he must have had and still has about our relationship.
In the beginning, it was clear that Rowan was a young bird – he was chirping when I came in with food, awkwardly balancing while he preened his feathers, and bouncing around on the ground looking for bits of food we may have dropped during a session. While we had many wins (like going to the Gala!!), we also had bouts of awkward timing, missed communication, and plenty of fumbles along the way. Ultimately, Rowan has been patient and honest, which has taught me a lot about myself. Animals only react to you in the way you communicate to them – meaning, if I ask him to do something and I’m unclear, he will respond unclearly, and that is a signal to me that I need to change my approach. It’s a pretty honest process, and one that keeps you humble. No one can pretend to be an effective trainer and get real results.
Now, I see a huge difference in Rowan – he’s much more self-assured and confident in his interactions with me. He seems to “know his job”, and is very patient on the glove. While we still have a long way to go, I can rely on his ability to rise to the occasion, do the best he can, and surprise me with how well behaved and receptive he is.
Beyond my reflection of the year, this experience will be something that I’ll fondly look back on for the rest of my life. It’s been the adventure of a lifetime.
-- Lauren Edzenga, Outreach Educator