We followed front-desk coordinators Marley Crawford and Caroline Elpers during a busy spring day. Note: Caroline is wearing a blue shirt in the photos, and Marley is wearing a red shirt.
Caroline: Today had a typical start -- I first turned on our computers, the lobby TV, and the building lights that aren’t already on (some days we’re the first ones here, but in the spring and summer the veterinary and rehab staff are usually the first ones in.) I quickly checked the credit card settlement sheet to make sure everything was processed correctly the day before.
8: 35 a.m.
Then I checked the admission list in the hospital to see if there were any overnight admissions (so we know which patient number to assign next). I set up the waiting room with additional crates so we’re ready for the day. The waiting room is a small, quiet, dark closet where we initially house our patients after admission. It gives them a minute to quietly settle down and it keeps admissions organized so the veterinary team can do an assessment as soon as they’re able.
We’re ready to start the day at the front desk!
Marley: I grabbed the on-call phone from Shannon, who had it overnight, and checked for messages that need a response this morning. (Note: The on-call phone is also known as the "after-hours emergency line".) Usually, while one of us does that, the other checks emails and phone messages from the main line. Some mornings we have ten or more calls to return and 10-20 emails waiting for a response.
I returned a phone call to someone who left a message last night about a baby bird they found. We try to triage phone calls – we have an order of importance for tasks in the morning.
Marley: First admission of the day – a Barred Owl. The rescuer wasn’t sure the owl was even alive by the time it got here this morning, but it was. I transferred the patient from the rescuer's crate into one of our crates in the waiting room.
By the time I get back to the front desk, the lobby has filled up with other people bringing in animals. Someone has brought in a Catbird hatchling that was in her yard – she has an outdoor cat that was threatening to harm the baby bird. I tried to explain that returning the bird to its parents would give it the best chance for survival. She was not willing to keep her cat indoors and away from the bird, so we admitted the young bird.
Caroline: I admitted a baby skunk; we keep skunk and raccoon patients in an outdoor area designated for rabies vector species. These enclosures are metal and can be sufficiently disinfected with high heat (flame thrower!) and are only used for the certain species.
I gave the skunk a quick visual exam to see if there were any wounds that the vet staff needed to be aware of before their exam. I put him in an incubator until the vet staff can get to him.
Marley: Then I got a call about skunks! Someone needed advice on how to get a skunk out of their window well.
Caroline and I will answer more than 62 calls today, ranging from people telling us they’re bringing in an animal to people needing advice about wildlife. (Note: several of the calls today were ultimately about Black Bear conflicts and we directed the callers to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries).
Caroline: I admitted a fawn that had been caught in a fence.
Marley: While Caroline handled the patient admission, I answered a phone call from someone with questions about American Robins in her yard.
Note: Around this time, one of our generous supporters dropped off such baked goods for us; she quietly brings us a treats every Wednesday and is beloved by our staff, students, and volunteers ... even though most don't get to see her because she zooms in and out!
Caroline: I had an unpleasant conversation with someone who called in about a problem with blackbirds at her bird feeder. She was really unhappy with my advice (I suggested she change the seed to attract only smaller birds at her feeder) and she yelled at me. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to people about wildlife conflict, especially when they don’t agree with your advice or when they just want you to solve the problem for them. I took a minute to collect myself after the phone call.
Marley: Took a phone call about a deer fawn! As I was talking on the phone, someone came in with a baby raccoon. This woman had found two other baby raccoons yesterday (we assume they were all siblings) and brought them to us for care. When she found this one, she knew what to do. Yesterday, she didn’t realize that you should always wear gloves when handling a wild animal (especially mammals); when she found this raccoon, she remembered my advice and made sure to wear proper protection. I was very pleased.
The raccoon was brought back to our Rabies Vector Species area.
Caroline: As Marley was admitting the raccoon, I was admitting a hatchling bird. With hatchlings, it can be tricky to identify the species. We have to look at physical and behavioral characteristics to try to figure out the species when they are so young and look very similar.
A recent veterinary student had put together an online resource for identifying baby bird species on admission (as part of his schooling outside of the Center). By looking at his website, I was able to tentatively ID the bird as a baby Blue Jay.
Marley: I put up a card in the hospital for the baby raccoon; we use a system of cards that alert the veterinary and rehabilitation staff to new admissions. The color of the card indicates which team needs to admit the animal (blue for rehabilitation and yellow for veterinary). On the card, we include the species, patient number, and where in the building the patient is located.
Marley: We admitted a young raptor earlier this week; the rescuer thought it was an injured adult Cooper’s Hawk, but on admission, we were able to determine it’s actually a fledgling Red-shouldered Hawk. I talked with the initial rescuer to see if we can work together to reunite the young bird with its parents (if possible). He agreed to keep an eye on the nest area to see if the parents return today.
Caroline: A woman called with questions about baby groundhogs near her shed. After I explained that the babies would be with their mom until the end of the summer, she had no problem just leaving the family alone until the young naturally disperse. At that time, she can work on some exclusion techniques to keep future groundhogs away from that area if she’d like.
Marley: I also got a call about groundhogs! The caller just wanted to know if she should be concerned about a groundhog in her yard attacking her pet or children. I told her that groundhogs tend to mind their own business, but they can become defensive over their territory if approached by a pet. I suggested the homeowner try placing balloons around the burrow entrances; groundhogs do not like the bobbing of balloons and this can deter them without bringing them any harm. I assured her that as long as kids and pets keep away from the groundhog when it was foraging, that she had nothing to worry about. She was happy to try the balloon trick along with some other easy methods I suggested.
Caroline: We check on the CFR files each morning – CFR stands for “call for release”. These are the patients that have been cleared for release and a registered transporter is either already scheduled to pick them up or we need to coordinate release of the patient. I’m making follow up phone calls for a number of animals this morning.
Caroline: Animals are sometimes brought to us in unusual containers – people often just grab whatever is available when there is an animal in need! This Northern Cardinal hatchling was brought in by one of our volunteers – it’s in a makeshift nest between two hanging plant pots.
Caroline: We get packages delivered every day – sometimes it's office or medical supplies, other times it’s live insects!
Caroline: No time to slow down. Someone brought us a baby bunny that was attacked by their dog. To not stress the bunny any further, I didn’t open the box and just placed the whole box into our incubator – this is where we put our smallest, youngest patients right after admission to keep them warm.
Finally got to eat lunch! While answering more phone calls …
Marley: Someone came in with a few questions about identifying snakes -- specifically, how to tell the difference between an Eastern Ratsnake and a Northern Racer.
Caroline: We admitted a mom opossum who had been hit by a car and died, but had several babies in her pouch.
Marley: While Caroline was admitting the patient, I started on the paperwork and called the rescuer to get some additional information. Each opossum baby gets its own patient number, even though they came in together as a group.
Marley: I’ve been coordinating with a Boy Scout who is helping us by making perches for outdoor patient enclosures. This afternoon, I emailed him a copy of the perch building plans.
Caroline: I had to coordinate transport for the re-nesting of a Red-shouldered Hawk – Marley had spoken to the initial rescuer earlier, and after observing the nest during the day, he spotted a parent. Now we need to find a registered volunteer transporter to bring the bird to his property. I’m looking at our official transporter map to identify who might be available. I’m also trying to find registered transporters to release a passel of opossums!
Marley: We had a steady stream of phone calls during the day. At this time, I answered a phone call about a hawk that was hit by a car and got stuck in the grille; I tried to find a transporter to go get the bird. Caroline answered a call about birds nesting on someone’s porch and another about a bunny that was attacked by a cat.
Marley: We send some of our blood samples to an outside lab for testing, and a courier stops by to pick up the samples most days. Today, they picked up blood from a Canada Goose.
Marley: Close to the end of the day, we began working on patient updates. When citizens bring wildlife in for care, we provide them the animal's Patient ID number along with our email address. They can email us anytime for an update on the animal they brought in, and Caroline and I can share some details from the medical report along with providing a prognosis for that animal. Not all updates have happy endings, but we are always honest with rescuers in letting them know what is going on with the patient they brought.
Caroline: Closing time! While we don't always leave at 5:00 p.m. (in the springtime we're sometimes here until after 7:00 p.m.), we do close and lock the doors at 5:00 p.m. If there are after-hours admissions, we coordinate with the on-call veterinary staff. Today, Marley and I headed out just around 6:00 p.m. and locked the doors behind us.
Marley: On my way home from work, I made a very important stop to release a small, juvenile Eastern Ratsnake! This snake came in after a cat caught it in the neighborhood next to mine, but after several days of supportive care from our veterinary team, it was ready to go home! I was very excited to return the snake to its home range, where I watched it slither away into the foliage!