My Experience as a Wildlife Rehabilitation Extern

Over the last 11 weeks, I have had the opportunity to complete a rehabilitation externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia and it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. While the first two weeks were a bit of a transitional period for me, I quickly realized just how amazing this experience was going to be. As an extern, my responsibilities varied and on any given day, my tasks ranged from making meals and prepping enrichment for patients, to doing “pick up and exercise” with the patient raptors, caring for patients in different areas of the Center, doing a lot of cleaning, setting up enclosures for newly admitted patients, and helping with an assortment of miscellaneous tasks, such as putting away produce deliveries or folding laundry. Throughout my externship I often found myself thinking “how lucky am I” because having the opportunity to be involved in the rehabilitation of native wildlife on a daily basis isn’t something that the vast majority of people get to experience. Whether I was making a nutritious meal for a patient, cleaning an enclosure, exercising raptors, prepping enrichment, or cleaning dirty dishes and crates, it was all-important work because it all aided in the rehabilitation of each patient.  

As I reflect on all of the wonderful memories I’ve made during my externship, I have realized that all of the people I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside of are what truly made my experience so incredible. Every single individual at the Center drives forth the mission of the Center, teaching others to care about and to care for wildlife and the environment. On a daily basis, I saw the collaboration between the veterinarians and the rehabilitation team, who all share the common goal of working together to give each patient the best chance at being able to successfully recover and make it back into the wild. As an extern who did not have a lot of prior experience in wildlife rehabilitation, the veterinarians and rehabilitation team used every opportunity they could as a teachable moment for me. What I appreciate most about all of the veterinarians and the rehabilitation team was their willingness to answer my endless amount of questions, their patience and encouraging words when I was learning how to complete new skills, and the confidence they have instilled in me. I entered into my externship experience hoping to learn more about native wildlife and the rehabilitation process, but I am leaving having gained so much more; I’m leaving the Center having made memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

One of my most memorable moments was when I had the opportunity to catch a Bald Eagle that was going to be released. While the actual process of catching the eagle and getting to hold it was exciting, what made it even more special was knowing that this eagle was about to be transported to a release site and make its journey back into the wild. As I restrained the eagle in my arms, I admired its beauty and reminisced about all the times I had helped to feed and exercise it. I thought about how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to make a difference in the life of this eagle. To be able to be a part of the successful rehabilitation of this eagle and all the other patients that were released during my externship was one of the most rewarding aspects of my experience.

-- Melody
WCV Class of 2020

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