Wildlife Rehabilitation Internship Experience

Now that our summer internships have come to an end and the interns have had time to reflect on their experiences, some of them have offered to write about their time spent at CWC. Our first blog post is written by Cassidy West. After completing her internship, she went on to become a Shift Leader volunteer for our Sunday PM crew! We’re so happy to have her on board and are excited to share her thoughts with you.

Intern, Cassidy West
Summer 2018 Wildlife Intern, Cassidy West

Where do I begin to describe my experience as an intern at a wildlife center? I guess from the beginning. When I first found out that I was getting the opportunity to begin this internship I literally jumped for joy. I was beyond excited that I got accepted and would be able to pursue a passion that I have had since a young age. As the day grew closer to begin, I started to feel the nervousness, and it was amplified even more after my first day. I felt so clueless and confused in every situation, terrified to make a mistake. The next day got easier, and the day after that even easier, and so on. When I finally hit a groove of comfortability, that’s when my love for the wildlife center really grew. I was able to ask questions, in any setting, and was shown proper ways to perform wildlife rehabilitation. I learned skills quickly and efficiently, and was able to practice different techniques with amazing guide and care.

I didn’t feel like the typical intern that you hear about in stories. I wasn’t shoved to the back and forced to do all the dirty work no one wanted to do (only every now and then). I was guided, and felt very taken under the wing by Mary and the rest of rehabilitation staff. They were always very patient and understanding, and never once made me feel dumb for not knowing how to tube feed, prepare diets, or even catch a bird. It was with their patience that I learned, and I mean really learned. I learned more about animal care in three months than I have in two years at college while pursuing a bachelors degree in Zoology. I definitely made some mistakes, but I learned from all of them.

Cassidy, tong-feeding two newly-hatched Barn Owlets

The whole vibe of the wildlife center is a busy relaxed feel; an oxymoron I know, but there is no better way to describe it than with an oxymoron. It’s a place where animals are given second chances, life and death happen daily (oxymoron as well). A close friend of mine asked me one afternoon after finishing a shift at the wildlife center if it was hard to see the animals be humanely put down. This was something I was worried about when I started. I love animals and always cry in movies when they die, or anything of the sort. But this was something entirely different – I told them no, the hardest part is when you’re not given the chance to help them cross that big ol’ rainbow bridge. I’d much rather see an animal brought in and be put to rest in a nice cozy blanket and room, than die alone and cold, in a box or the outdoors. This was a huge epiphany and learning experience for me.

It was such a fast paced environment that you could never sit down, and I loved it. Nothing speaks to me more than a hard day of work. There’s something to be said about being able to stay busy all day. And the wildlife center, in the peak of summer, is the best place to be to stay busy. I remember feeding raccoons for the first time, and everyone warning me how scary it can be, and it’s “okay” if I didn’t want to. I was prepared for the screaming they warned me about, but when I entered the room they were being rehabilitated in I couldn’t help but laugh. Around twenty-five raccoons in different cages were climbing ALL OVER the cage. It was the cutest and funniest thing I could have ever seen, and their little yells of excitement to get food had me smiling ear to ear. It was in that moment I knew I was pursuing the right profession.

Although, a close second would be feeding the flying squirrels. I discovered at this internship that flying squirrels are my favorite animals.

IMG_1919 (1)
Cassidy, Bottle-feeding a baby Raccoon

Overall, this internship has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I could not be more thankful to the Chintimini Wildlife Center for giving me the opportunity to learn and pursue a lifelong passion. I learned much more about saving animals and wildlife rehabilitation than I ever thought I would have. It’s all tools that will be helpful in the future, but I think the thing Chintimini taught me best was:

Those who wish to pet and baby wildlife love them, but those who respect their natures and wish to let them live their natural lives, love them more.”

-Edwin Way Teale


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