Honors Summer Snapshots: Allie

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Allie Volk is making Wisconsin a better place, one baby raccoon at a time:

It’s not easy running one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centers in Wisconsin. Every year, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society admits more than 5,000 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals, making it one of the highest volume wildlife rehabilitation centers in the state. Because almost all wild species have their babies during warm months, the majority of these admits (about 3,000) occur in summer, so understandably the six person staff recruits the help of about 150 volunteers and seven interns during this time every year. This is where I come in!

Volk 1

I am lucky enough to be returning to the Wisconsin Humane Society for my second summer as a wildlife rehabilitation intern. After a long trek through Milwaukee traffic, my mornings start off by cleaning cages and feeding all the animals.

Volk 2

Each folder has a different group of animals that need to be cleaned and fed multiple times per day.

The rehab center cares for 150 different species of animals, each of which requires and is fed a specialized diet that oftentimes changes as the animal grows. This makes for a lot of work, as different animals are also fed on different schedules. Animals can be fed as seldom as once a day to every 30 minutes for our baby birds.

Volk 3

Many of our baby birds get syringe-fed, like this common grackle.

Most of the day revolves around the feeding and cleaning schedules of our animals, but another aspect of my internship is education, both for myself and the public.

Volk 4

Baby raccoons are bottle fed four times per day.

Over the past couple months I have learned endless facts and skills that go into raising and rehabilitating wild animals, and because we admit such a wide array of species that all have unique life issues and stories, it is oftentimes a learning experience even for our very experienced wildlife rehabilitation staff. And one of my favorite things is troubleshooting an issue with an animal with staff, as coming to a mutual conclusion can literally be life changing for a sick infant animal.

Volk 5

Baby opossums are natural climbers.

One of the main goals of the Wisconsin Humane Society is to educate the public on humanely coexisting with wildlife, so naturally as an intern I spend a lot of time educating people on how to handle different wildlife situations, sometimes with educational programs but mainly through our phone line.

Volk 6

This is our resident education peregrine falcon Herbert. He was admitted last year and is non-releasable due to a wing injury.

Along with the 5000+ animals we admit every year, we also receive around 12,000 phone calls each year. Situations can range from finding a baby bird on the ground, to finding a family of raccoons in the attic. Not only do we have to be prepared to assist with all of these problems, but we also must rely heavily on interpersonal skills, as someone’s emotions can range from extremely frustrated to severely distraught, which is completely understandable when an animal’s life is in the balance.

Volk 7

As raccoons age, they are moved to a pre-release cage outside.

The most rewarding part of working in rehab is being able to release the animals that we raised and cared for. Because every animal we work with is wild, our goal for every patient is to be raised and released back into their natural environment.

Volk 8

Here are a few bunnies being released. After only a few weeks bunnies are fully independent from their parents.

Though we don’t get to interact with them like we would a domestic animal, seeing them leave our care and knowing that we gave each and every one of them the opportunity to live their best lives is extremely gratifying.

Volk 9

Bonus picture of a baby raccoon bottle feeding for your viewing pleasure.

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