My experience at the Wildlife Center of Virginia has lived up to my full expectations! As a first-year veterinary student, I wanted to get hands-on experience with the world of wildlife, a division of animal care that I had limited learning experiences in up to this point. I was fully committed to the long hours and difficult cases upon receiving my letter of acceptance then I flew for the first time to Virginia to start my new journey.
The bulk of my time at the Center has been taking care of 12 adorable fawns. Each fawn that enters the Center requires a strict protocol to help them transition into temporary captivity and give them a better chance at survival. After the veterinary staff gives each fawn a clean bill of health, the fawns are handed over to the rehabilitation team. Being able to be a part of the intake process and the rehabilitation of these fawns has been incredibly rewarding. I learned about their husbandry, diet, signs of stress, handling, and the PPE protocols that are required for every fawn to thrive under our care and be returned to the wild. Seeing each fawn moving into its temporary outdoor enclosure was like watching my babies graduate from preschool and go into kindergarten. I was extremely proud of everyone who contributed to their care and most of all the fawns themselves, who persevered in the face of their difficulties. Every fawn will hold a special place in my heart forever.
I did not only work with fawns though. I worked with a wide variety of Virginia wildlife. I had the chance to gain experience with turtles, snakes, birds of prey, small mammals, songbirds, and so much more. At the Center, you never know what will come in the door. It could be a mink that was wandering the streets or a skink that was caught by a cat. That is one of the things that I thoroughly enjoy about the Center! I love not knowing who is going to come through the door.
With all these different types of animals I worked with, we also need ways to restrain them for treatment. One of the things I wanted to learn was how to safely hold animals for treatment in a way that keeps myself and the animal comfortable, safe, and stress-free, and I learned just that. I was properly instructed on capturing and restraining a myriad of species such as White-tailed Deer, groundhogs, Red-tailed Hawks, opossums, songbirds, and more.
All the skills I developed during my externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia could not be possible without the knowledgeable, patient, and caring staff. Being able to work for a wildlife hospital that not only cares about wildlife but about educating others on how to care for wildlife has been a dream come true. I loved being comfortable asking as many questions as I wanted and knowing that they would all be welcomed with open arms and answered with experience behind every statement. I treasured being a part of this family, even if it was for a moment in time. I can not wait to reapply for one of my veterinary rotations in the upcoming years!
-- Rhiannon Ballard-Davis
Wildlife Rehabilitation Extern