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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.