Saturday, March 21, 2015

Raptors and Opossums and Squirrels, Oh My: Interning with Ohio Wildlife Center

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship:  Wildlife Hospital Intern, Ohio Wildlife Center
Location:  Columbus, OH

Hi there! My name is Rachel Dalton, and I am a junior Zoo and Conservation Science major. If that sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is probably because I also blogged this past summer about my experiences at the Wilds! I am excited to be blogging again, and to have more experiences to blog about.

This semester, I am a wildlife hospital intern at Ohio Wildlife Center. This is actually my second time interning for this organization, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to learn from their fantastic staff and volunteers.

Learn more about OWC at!

Ohio Wildlife Center is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and education organization located in Powell, OH. They are one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in the country, and admit approximately 5,000 animals to the wildlife hospital each year. OWC also does a lot of fabulous educational outreach programs.

As an intern in the hospital, I am responsible for performing daily animal care, handling animals with species-appropriate techniques, preparing and administering medications, interacting with people bringing in injured or ill wildlife, filling out animal daily treatment log sheets, helping to train new volunteers, and helping out however else I can. No two days are ever quite the same, and I absolutely love this; there are always new cases and new challenges, and I learn something new during every shift.

During the winter months we generally don’t have as many animals in the hospital, as many species are in various states of hibernation/decreased activity. However, we have had an influx of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors (hawks, owls, etc) as of late due to the extreme cold. Surviving cold temperatures is a very energetically costly ordeal, and food resources are very limited for these birds due to the cold and snow. As such, we have had good Samaritans (thank you!) bring in quite a few waterfowl species, robins, and hawks that are lethargic and very underweight in recent weeks. Fortunately for these animals, OWC is a great place to be; in addition to providing a warm cozy place to recuperate, we work very hard to reintroduce food, proper nutrition, and weight gain in a way that won’t shock their systems. This is very important when an animal has not eaten much for quite some time. We have several patients who are in the process of recovering from emaciation right now and gaining weight fabulously. One of my personal favorites is a canvasback duck:
Image courtesy of
I had not seen a canvasback in person before, and it truly is a stunning bird.

There are times when animals come in with injuries that are extensive enough that they will not be able to be re-released successfully. However, some of these non-releasable animals are great candidates for becoming educational ambassador animals. This is the case with a female wood duck that currently resides at the OWC hospital:

This wood duck was found in a parking lot with injuries that strongly suggested she was hit by a car. She is blind in her right eye, as well as having other challenges that would make it difficult for her to survive in the wild successfully. She is a delight to have around the hospital, and she will be a great ambassador for her wild counterparts.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a family who brought in a house finch they had found in their yard. While walking through the intake paperwork process and talking with them, I found out the older daughter who was 13 or 14 was very interested in veterinary medicine. When they found the bird in their yard, she had very carefully researched what species it was (she was correct!), and gave me a very detailed account of what the bird looked like when they found it. She reminded me very much of myself at that age, and I was all too happy to spend some extra time with that family sharing with them about the hospital, animals we see, pointing out incubators and other various features of our exam room through the viewing window, etc. Her face was glowing the entire time, and I love talking about wildlife with kids, so I’m fairly certain mine was as well! I still think of that family whenever I care for that house finch.

I have decided to close my posts with a fun fact related to wildlife biology or medicine. I am particularly fond of snapping turtles, so here are a few facts about Ohio’s largest species of turtle.

Image courtesy of
*The common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, is estimated to have an average lifespan of 30+ years in the wild. 

*Snapping turtles can weigh upwards of 35 pounds when full grown.

*Snapping turtles have what is called temperature-dependent sex determination; the sex of a snapping turtle is determined by the temperature around the egg. Warmer eggs will hatch out as females, and cooler eggs will hatch out as males. Many other species of turtles in Ohio also exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination.