2022 12 months in Evaluation: Connor Gillespie, Outreach Coordinator


It’s time to look again on 2022! Examine our weblog between Christmas and New 12 months’s for quite a lot of tales and recollections of 2022 from the employees and volunteers of the Wildlife Heart of Virginia.

Usually, out of the 1000’s of animals that come via the Heart’s doorways every year, we would solely add one to the Heart’s workforce of training ambassadors. Typically, we do not add any. We incessantly get requested why we won’t tackle extra, and whereas we want we have been capable of, the answer is not that easy. There may be quite a lot of standards we have to meet for an animal to develop into an training ambassador. We have to ensure that we’ve the area to accommodate it, the information to take care of it, the staffing and time required, and most significantly, that the animal can develop into snug in human care. It isn’t usually that we add new faces to the workforce, and that is why, this yr, what stands out most for me is that we added not one, not two, however three new ambassadors to our workforce.

Clover the American Kestrel was the primary new ambassador to affix the workforce this yr. She got here to the Heart after trying to fly to folks at a gasoline station in Staunton and somebody swatted her to the bottom. On admission, we discovered a silver band on her leg, and after reporting the band quantity on-line, we discovered her backstory: Clover was taken from her nest by falconers at solely 16 days outdated, and later launched into the wild. They did this as a result of they wished to assist Clover survive her first winter, a interval of excessive mortality for younger birds. Sadly, they made an enormous mistake: they took her at such a younger age that she imprinted on folks and did not know survive on her personal. She was solely flying to folks as a result of she was hungry and wished companionship. 

Fortunately, despite the fact that Clover wasn’t geared up to return to the wild, she was geared up to make a superb training ambassador. It did not take her lengthy to get used to her new dwelling, and by spring we had already constructed up sufficient belief for me to take her out on the glove. Most birds take some time to get used to the sights, noises, and surprising issues that include going outdoors their enclosure, however not Clover. She took to it instantly and had a robust curiosity to fulfill folks and see new issues. In truth, it has develop into an everyday a part of our routine to go for each day walks across the Heart. I at all times sit up for our strolls. 


Quick ahead to now, Clover is absolutely educated and prepared for applications, we’re simply ready for the USFWS so as to add her to our permits so her position on the ambassador workforce is official. Within the meantime, Clover has been spending a lot of her days coming into the outreach room and sitting on a perch by my desk, from which she likes to look at the going-ons of the Heart. We prefer to joke that Clover supervises us and makes positive we’re getting our work completed.

Not lengthy after Clover joined the workforce, Dr. Karra knowledgeable us a few new affected person on the Heart: Virginia Opossum #22-0690. The younger opossum, weighing in at simply 131 grams, had been caught and injured by an outside cat. Although he survived the assault, his proper eye was severely broken and wanted to be eliminated. He might now not stay a life within the wild. Usually, this ends in euthanasia, however Dr. Karra felt he may do effectively as an envoy if we have been . Our two opossums ambassadors Violet & Marigold have been turning into geriatric, so we determined it was a great time so as to add to the workforce.

Alex and I began working with the opossum in early spring and our first impression was that he was a bit spitfire. Each time he’d see us, he’d open up his mouth vast to attempt to intimidate us, which was actually considerably amusing contemplating his measurement. However as soon as he discovered that we at all times introduced him his meals (his favorites have been mice bits and apples) and that we by no means did something to hurt him, he began to heat as much as us. Throughout the subsequent two months, we received to witness quite a lot of “firsts” as he grew up: his first time climbing, his first tub, and my favourite, his first time trusting us sufficient to take meals from our gloves. 


The 131g opossum we used to know is now larger than Violet and weighs 2.33kg (about 5.1 kilos). And he has a reputation … Oliver! Outreach docent volunteer Lydia Value gained his naming rights at our Annual Gala and gave him the identify Oliver as a result of it “derives from the olive tree, which has been mentioned to represent peace.” It is the proper identify. Oliver is particular to me, not solely due to his great persona however as a result of he is the primary opossum I’ve helped increase on the Heart. He is additionally the Heart’s first-ever cat-attack sufferer who has develop into an envoy.

The third and closing ambassador we added to our workforce was a ratsnake that got here to the Heart nearly a yr in the past. The snake was delivered to the Heart after being saved as a pet for an unknown time frame. For sure, the snake was very snug round folks, so we began reaching out to different organizations that may need to have him as an envoy. Sadly, throughout that point, our training ratsnake Albus’s well being took a downward flip, and we needed to euthanize him. Although we have been very saddened to lose our long-time snake buddy, we realized that the ratsnake we had been looking for a house for might keep at our Heart and tackle Albus’s mantle of instructing the world about these misunderstood animals. 

What was most enjoyable about having this ratsnake be a part of our workforce was the naming course of – we enlisted the assistance of the general public in naming him! I had a lot enjoyable studying via the greater than 100 submissions, however it did not take lengthy to slim it down to 1 identify: Allegheny, an ode to each his species (their Latin identify is Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and the habitat the place they are often discovered. The very best half was per week later when Allegheny and I visited one of many faculties that participated within the naming contest. He was an enormous hit! And admittedly, Allegheny was so curious and energetic throughout this system that I had a tough time maintaining him nonetheless lengthy sufficient for the scholars to get a great have a look at him. At one level he even wrapped round my microphone and unplugged the wire. The youngsters completely beloved it and burst out laughing. I had a great chuckle too. 

Attending to know every of those animals’ personalities, quirks, likes, and dislikes has been the most effective a part of my yr. They honestly carry a smile to my face even on my worst days. I can solely hope to make as a lot of a distinction of their lives as they’ve already made in mine. 

I am unable to wait to see Clover, Oliver, and Allegheny flourish within the new yr. Regulate our occasion calendar, as a result of we would simply be heading to a program close to you. And belief me, you do not need to miss the chance to fulfill them. 

P.S. You may say we added 4 ambassadors to the workforce for those who embody Ozzy the Jap Screech Owl. Although he got here to the Heart early final yr, it was this yr that Amanda has made probably the most important strides in his coaching. We have submitted an utility so as to add him to our permits, however the course of is taking fairly some time. That would be the final step earlier than he is formally an envoy. Maintain a watch out for updates on him sooner or later!

— Connor Gillespie, Outreach Coordinator

Try all of our year-in-review posts!


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