Behind the scenes
At Peace River Wildlife Center, we have over 100 birds on display to the public seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 11am to 4 pm. Most of our educational displays house birds that are not able to be released after they have healed from the injuries that brought them to PRWC in the first place. Many are missing part of a wing or an eye, something that precludes them from fending for themselves in the wild.
This gives some people the mistaken impression that we only deal with birds. PRWC treats over 2,000 animals each year, including birds, mammals and reptiles. Many people see injured wildlife in the community and bring it to us for treatment. Some really helpful folks will even assist us by picking up the recovered patient and releasing it for us, back where it was found. Very few people get an inside glimpse at what happens to the animal in between those stages.
Many highly educated people have no idea what a veterinarian, animal technician or wildlife rehabber really do. I remember asking my obstetrician when I was pregnant with my daughter whether I should scale back my duties at work. She asked what I did and when I told her I was a veterinarian, she assured me I could continue working. After one particular incident landed me back at her office, she asked for the particulars of what had transpired. I explained I had been wrestling a recalcitrant Rottweiler who did not want to submit to being sedated for his dental cleaning procedure. We injected his induction agent with him lying on the floor, then lifted the 125-pound dog to the work station, and… That’s as far as I got before my doctor’s colour paled so much I stopped the story to inquire after her health.
Apparently she, like so many people, thought veterinarians just sit around petting happy puppies and kittens all day. And that was while I was still in private practice, seeing mostly dogs and cats. Now my staff and I wrestle potentially rabid raccoons for a living. Well, you can’t actually call the amount of money we pay these poor people making a living. But they do work their tails off to keep the wild animals of Charlotte County safe and healthy.
PRWC’s rehabbers spend their days feeding baby birds and their nights feeding baby mammals; providing 20 different species with 20 different types of food every day. They apply bandages, give medications, take x-rays, and clean wounds. All the while trying to keep their fingers away from gnashing teeth and their eyes free from stabbing bills. And then there is the truly glamourous side of the job—cleaning cages and habitats throughout the day for our patients and residents.
After a recent minor procedure, I was reminded to keep bacteria away from my face for 24 hours. It was explained to me that make-up can harbor bacteria and I should avoid using it if at all possible. I assured my nurse that I would indeed be able to do that. Returning to work immediately after that appointment, I went back to clean a cage full of juvenile raccoons. The good news is that raccoons will use a shallow pan of water as a latrine if provided, keeping most of their feces in one location and decreasing the odor somewhat. The bad news is; the latrines must be emptied at least daily. So while I definitely did not put any make-up on my face, I may have splashed raccoon-feces contaminated water on it. But she didn’t mention anything about that, so I guess all is good.
PRWC is fortunate to have a team of volunteers who help with many of these duties. We are also privileged to have some of the best supporters, who are constantly thanking the staff (both volunteer and paid) for their dedication. One of my favourite comments from visitors is, “It doesn’t even stink here!” Thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of our steadfast staff, this place really doesn’t stink, in any sense of the word. It is a great place to work, surrounded by a wonderful group of people pulling together to make magic happen behind the scenes.
by – Robin Jenkins, DVM