I was flipping thru the paper 2 weeks ago – and read that the local wildlife rehab center was having an open house. They are not open to the public, but do hold open houses once or twice a year for several Sundays in a row.
I was excited, having dealt with them years ago, when they first started out, and really wanted to see the place. I called and made reservations for my daughter and I, and the following Sunday zoomed out of here for our tour!!!
It was an hour drive, to Waynesboro, Va and we got there a little early. The Wildlife Center of Virginia is nestled in the woods, at the base of the George Washington National Forest, in a lovely eco friendly wood building. We went to the reception desk and said we were here for the tour. We were a week EARLY!!!!
I had been so excited, and obviously wasn’t looking at the right week on the calendar!…………………so, we left disappointed, with a handful of pamphlets and got back on the road. At least we knew where it was and how long it took to get there!!!
This past Sunday, we , again, got in the car and headed back out to Waynesboro, on the CORRECT day!
What a difference a week makes – there was limited parking, because the tour was fully booked- that was a little frustrating- I was sure my van was going to fall off the edge of the road, while trying to maneuver around to get parked!!! But we managed, and went inside.
There was a short talk and video telling all about the center and its patients. There are many animals who are never able to be returned to the wild, and they become good will ambassadors, or ‘animal educators’.
These animal ambassadors were the animals who were on the tour. There was a snapping turtle, named Spike, who had spent the first few years of his life as a “pet” kept in a cooler. His diet was poor and as a result he had skeletal problems which would prevent him from ever surviving on his own. There were a number of snakes, who were unable to be released for one reason or another, and then there were the birds.
Pignoli was a tiny owl, who was found on the railroad tracks, with a badly damaged eye. His eye ultimately had to be removed, and Pignoli became an animal educator. He has been with the Center for 10 years, and was not at all bothered by the audience or the noisy children oohing and aahing at him! A volunteer came in with a recording of an owl, to try to inspire Pignoli to speak – but he just blinked his one good eye disdainfully at that tape recorder, and never said a word!! As the volunteer said, they really did not know WHAT the owl on the recording was actually saying, so Pignoli may have been doing the right thing by NOT responding!!
Next stop on the tour was outside to see the larger birds, housed in a gated compound behind the main facility. There was an absolutely stunning juvenile bald eagle, who was due to be released. He probably had a 6 foot wingspan, and pretty much ignored the nosy humans gawking at him thru the bars.
There were red tailed hawks and red shouldered hawks, a kestrel, and several different types of owls.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to see the fawns who were scheduled for release, and there were no bear cubs on the premises. Even if there were, I doubt that we would have been allowed to see them. Altho, the guide said we would know if there WERE bear cubs there, because they are always a rowdy, noisy bunch!
The Center recently had a bobcat kitten, who had just been transferred to a facility in Maryland. She had been found by the side of the road, by some people who thought she was a domestic kitten. Her eyes were still closed. They kept her for 3 weeks, feeding her milk and cat friskies, until it started to dawn on them, that she was NOT an ordinary kitten!!! I don’t know how they could have made that mistake in the first place!!
The bobcat was so imprinted on humans, that she could not be released back into the wild, so she also will be an animal educator.
The Wildlife Center has a state of the art operating room, with vets on staff. One of the founders of the center, Ed Clark, Jr., goes around the country and the world teaching conservation, and working to develop regulations to protect the environment. He has helped develop the WCV into an award winning teaching and research hospital , having handled more than 50,000 patients over the past 25 years. Clark is also the creator and host of “Animal Emergency” a show on t.v.’s Animal Planet.
Having worked as a kid with a wildlife rehabber, and worked with animals all my life- if I was a little younger, and the Center was a little closer, I would be working there every day!!!
If you live in Va, I would recommend taking the tour, which runs thru Oct, or signing up for some of their classes. More info can be found on their website http://www.wildlifecenter.org
Unfortunately, it was hard to get good pictures of all of the birds. The cages were dark and heavily barred in some cases, and it was a cloudy day with a heavy tree canopy. But I was able to get a few.
All is well at Mountain Meadows on this rainy, misty day!!!
Nature does not hurry, yet, everything is accomplished……………………………..Lao Tzu