The Hand That Feeds: A Day In The Life of a Rehab Extern

When I first arrived at the Wildlife Center, I had no idea what to expect. I think the thing that I should have anticipated, but didn’t, was standing all day. This is a fast-paced job where you are always running from task to task, sometimes quite literally.

The first thing rehabilitation externs do when they get to work is check what tasks they have been assigned to for the day. Tasks vary depending on the season or patient load, and there is a wide spectrum according to effort needed for each task – but all of them have to be done in a timely manner.

Most morning tasks can and should be completed before noon. Some tasks, like preparing meals for and feeding our birds of prey (Raptor Feed), need to be done in the evening. Now that we are in winter, and, coincidentally, the slow season at the Center, Raptor Feed starts at two o’clock instead of three or four o’clock.

Assigned tasks include but are not limited to: feeding and monitoring patients in the Aviary, meal preparation, hunting for nuts in the fall or collecting small branches for the fawns/beaver (Browse), picking up last night’s meal scraps and exercising patient raptors, cleaning all enclosures in ICU, taking care of the older mammals in the Mammals Complex, moving our acclimating patients outside once a day, taking care of our reptiles, and making formula at the end of the day. Some tasks vary on the “effort” spectrum depending on the time of year -- being in ICU and feeding animals now is hardly the task it was several months ago when we had 30 baby squirrels.

When morning tasks are complete, you begin to scrutinize what has been left for you on the whiteboard. This is the place that changes according to daily needs, but some things will always be the same. Making bulk meals for the animals, cleaning dirty crates, hosing certain pens, etc. are all daily tasks. If animals are released or transferred, their pens will need to be deep-cleaned. You can usually anticipate this need and tackle it before it needs to be written, but if you are too busy doing something else, there are always other externs you can rely on.

The number of your fellow externs also depends on the season because fewer people are required for a smaller patient load. Let me tell you, these are the people that make your day shine. You draw strength and confidence from them, especially the more senior externs. Everyone is constantly learning from each other, and it is a give-and-take kind of environment.

Even though it is an incredibly demanding job, I feel that every struggle here was worth it in the end. You can only hope that you did right by an animal when you release it into the wild, but I believe that we do our best to prepare any animal for a life without humans. I wouldn’t change a thing about my time here, and I’m glad to have chosen this place for my first taste of the world of wildlife rehabilitation.

--Tori L.
WCV Class of 2015