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Saving Animal Lives, Enhancing Human Expertise

turtle being helped at the wildlife center

Each year, more than 3,000 animals come to the Wildlife Center of Virginia for the lifesaving care they need. But the staff there serve another important purpose, one that ensures their skills and experience will help more animals than they’ll ever see.

As a teaching hospital, the center offers hands-on training to students who will go on to have careers in wildlife medicine. Future veterinarians, veterinary technicians and wildlife rehabilitators learn more from the center and its patients than a textbook could ever teach. And because these students come from all over the world, the center has a global impact.

Veterinary training at the Wildlife Center of Virginia has several goals. First, these future veterinarians and veterinary technicians provide medical care to the center’s many patients. The goal is to eventually return these animals to their natural environments, when they are well enough to be safe there. These students also conduct health studies on wildlife to enhance their understanding of common diseases, and help to share information about wildlife health to policymakers and the general public.

In rehabilitation training, students learn how to rescue, care for and arrange the veterinary care of wild animals that have been injured or orphaned. While wildlife rehabilitators will not have the technical training and skill of a veterinarian, they are an important part of the treatment process. They need hands-on practice to learn how a weak or frightened animal can be brought to the appropriate level of care with minimal trauma.

The goal of education outreach training is to prepare students for teaching the general public about wild animals and the mission of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. These trained educators present hundreds of programs annually in schools and libraries across the Commonwealth. They also introduce visitors to the center’s many education animals, and present online classes using the Critter Cams. The training prepares them to tell the stories of the patients that come through the center each year, and to teach the public about being a good human neighbor to Virginia wildlife.

The Wildlife Care Academy includes instruction on a wide variety of topics, including capture and restraint, wildlife rehabilitation, and wildlife diagnostics. It offers continuing education courses for the many professions that may encounter wildlife, including veterinarians, animal control officers and law enforcement professionals.

What You Can Do!

  • Careers in wildlife medicine may take a lot of training, but the learning can begin way before that. Encourage a healthy curiosity and respect for wildlife in the kids you know. Check out wildlife programming on TV, and look for library books on the animals they have wondered about.
  • Get some experience! You can volunteer with organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, or check with your parks and rec department about opportunities to work with local wildlife. and help with all kinds of tasks that keep animals safe and well. This is a great way to figure out exactly what kind of wildlife job is for you.
  • Give the gift of wildlife. You might inspire a future wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian by giving a field guide or a pair of binoculars. You can even honor a loved one’s birthday or other milestone with a donation to a wildlife hospital or conservation group.
  • Training in wildlife health can open a lot of career doors, way beyond hands-on healthcare. Check out some of these ideas and see how they might intersect with skills and training you already have!