Well, here we are ... at the end of what has been a very rewarding and educational experience. I've had a great time learning here, and I feel much more confident about my ability to affect change through outreach now than when I arrived two short months ago.
Looking back, a lot has happened. I've done a lot of writing for patient and educational updates, Caring for Critters spotlights and, of course, several blog posts. I've also had the chance to watch orthopedic surgery being performed on an Eastern American Toad with a broken leg, and on a Peregrine Falcon with a broken wing -- both very cool! I presented a food chain program to a local school, which was nerve-wracking but affirming, and I led several tours for people of all ages through the Center and on nature hikes in the neighbouring forest.
I have to say that my favorite experience has been in learning how to handle education animals, which is very different from the way in which patient animals are handled. I've only ever worked with wild animals who were destined for release, so this was a real treat. I've learned how much I enjoy working with education animals, and how wonderful it is to be able to freely interact with them unlike patient animals, in whom we must preserve their fear of humans. Being able to tie a falconer's knot is a skill I'd never before thought of acquiring, much less using that knot to tie a Great Horned Owl to my wrist!
Most importantly, I've seen just how impactful education animals can be in inspiring people to respect and care about wildlife and the environment. Even the most misunderstood animals, when seen up close and personal, can inspire appreciation and respect in the most rancorous of personalities. It's an exciting change to witness, and I've become a huge supporter of using unreleasable wildlife for educational purposes when it is humane and appropriate to do so.
As a huge bonus, I successfully befriended Jaz, the American Crow education bird. Jaz's notoriety lies in her dislike of females, and more specifically, blond females like myself. My breaks throughout the day were often spent on a visit to Jaz's enclosure, winning her over with treats of mealworms and peanuts.
Soon after this daily custom began, some epic neck rubs ensued. I'll miss her dearly. (I wonder if they'll let me decorate her enclosure with a photo of her and I so she'll never forget me?)
All in all it's been an amazing experience. I'm a little sad to leave, but excited at the possibilities this experience will open up for me, and the new directions it may take me in. Huge “thank you's” to: my mentors, Raina and Chapin; the rehab interns who were so much fun to be around; the vet staff for being so patient with all my questions and queries; Critter Nation for your support and encouragement; and all the wonderful staff and animals of the Wildlife Center for contributing to my very positive experience.
A special thank you to Meaghan Gibson and the students of Brownsville Elementary School for a very heart-warming package of letters and thank you's for the program I presented there. Your little brown envelope contained all the encouragement and motivation I could ever have hoped for.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
WCV Class of 2014