Dis­cover a wild place to vol­un­teer

The Review - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Weil­bacher Colum­nist Mike Weil­bacher di­rects the Schuylkill cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion, tweets @SCEEMike and can be reached at [email protected] schuylkill­cen­ter.org.

Imag­ine a place where you can feed a baby squir­rel from a bot­tle, give medicine to a wounded wood­land an­i­mal or change the ban­dages on a bird of prey.

While there are not many places like this in the re­gion, there’s one right here in Roxborough: The Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Cen­ter, tucked down Port Royal Av­enue.

Since 1987, the Wildlife Clinic has ad­min­is­tered its unique aid to tens of thou­sands of in­jured, or­phaned and sick an­i­mals of some 150 species — snap­ping tur­tles and skunks, rac­coons and red-tailed hawks, owls and opos­sums, wood­peck­ers and war­blers. And baby an­i­mals of all kinds, es­pe­cially rab­bits and squir­rels, squir­rels and rab­bits and even more rab­bits and squir­rels. And the clinic needs your help. With a staff of only two, the clinic re­lies on a vol­un­teer corps to ex­tend their work.

“We can’t func­tion with­out vol­un­teers,” said Re­becca Miche­lin, di­rec­tor of the Wildlife Clinic.

A rel­a­tively new staff mem­ber of the Schuylkill Cen­ter, com­ing here from her na­tive Nova Sco­tia in July, she re­opened the clinic in Novem­ber and is busily re­build­ing its vol­un­teer pro­gram in ad­vance of the com­ing baby an­i­mal sea­son, which amaz­ingly starts around Valen­tine’s Day.

“There’s just so much to do in one day,” she added. “The more vol­un­teers we have, the bet­ter the level of care we can of­fer th­ese an­i­mals.”

Chris Strub, the clinic’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor who runs its vol­un­teer pro­gram, chimed in, “Vol­un­teers are the back­bone of any wildlife clinic.”

Chris noted that the Schuylkill Cen­ter has a num­ber of Wednes­day and Satur­day ori­en­ta­tion ses­sions set up dur­ing Jan­uary — if your New Year’s res­o­lu­tion is to do some­thing to im­prove the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment, vol­un­teer­ing at the Wildlife Clinic is a su­perb way to sat­isfy this res­o­lu­tion.

“Hav­ing peo­ple vol­un­teer is one of the best ways to give peo­ple an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for wildlife,” Chris ob­served.

There are also two on­line ses­sions new vol­un­teers are asked to ex­pe­ri­ence, one on health and safety and a se­cond on wildlife ethics, the lat­ter cov­er­ing such in­trigu­ing top­ics as when eu­th­a­niz­ing a wild an­i­mal might sadly be­come nec­es­sary.

The clinic staff is es­pe­cially look­ing for vol­un­teers who can take on a reg­u­lar weekly fourhour ses­sion for a six-month pe­riod of time — es­pe­cially if that vol­un­teer is look­ing to work with an­i­mals.

“There is a con­ti­nu­ity of care that is im­por­tant,” noted Miche­lin, “and reg­u­lar vol­un­teers work­ing with the same an­i­mals can help us as­sess the progress of the in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals.”

To work di­rectly with an­i­mals, vol­un­teers must be 18 or older. Younger vol­un­teers — 16 and older — can help clean cages and prep the many dif­fer­ent kinds of foods. (If you’d like to work with, say, mam­mals like rac­coons and foxes, you’ll also need a round of ra­bies vac­ci­na­tions; lack­ing that, you’d work with non-ra­bies an­i­mals like squir­rels, rab­bits, birds and more.)

Oh, and wild an­i­mals are hun­gry ev­ery day of the year, so clinic staff work week­ends and of­ten into evenings — both Re­becca and Chris took turns work­ing through the Christ­mas and New Year’s hol­i­days. Vol­un­teers might even join them on th­ese days, one great way to avoid po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions with, say, that can­tan­ker­ous Un­cle Bob.

I write this on Fri­day, where two vol­un­teers were there clean­ing cages, get­ting them ready for the com­ing in­flux of baby birds, while also clean­ing and re-at­tach­ing perches on out­door cages, of which the clinic has many in a va­ri­ety of sizes.

If you’d like to vol­un­teer at the Wildlife Clinic, please email the Schuylkill Cen­ter’s vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor, Claire Mor­gan, at [email protected]­ll­cen­ter.org. She’ll get you in touch with clinic staff and book your ori­en­ta­tion.

If you can’t vol­un­teer at the clinic but sup­port its work, the web­site con­tains a list of items you can bring to the Schuylkill Cen­ter for use at the clinic, and there is an Ama­zon wish list of sup­plies you can pur­chase for the clinic. You can also, of course, do­nate di­rectly to the clinic on the cen­ter’s web­site, and all funds you of­fer will be used at the clinic.

The Wildlife Clinic is cel­e­brat­ing its re­cent re­open­ing with a pub­lic event, Win­ter­fest for Wildlife, on Satur­day, Feb. 2, from noon to 4 p.m., held in con­junc­tion with Ground­hog’s Day, the only hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing a wild an­i­mal. The event fea­tures wildlife talks by Re­becca Miche­lin, arts and crafts work­shops, na­ture walks, sto­ry­times and more. You can also bring sup­plies to be do­nated for use at the clinic to the Schuylkill Cen­ter at Win­ter­fest, or frankly any day at all.

As the clinic girds its loins for the com­ing spring, they’d love your help. Con­sider vol­un­teer­ing at one of the wildest places in the re­gion.


A gray squir­rel gets treat­ment at the Wildlife Clinic.


Clinic vol­un­teers Tom Price, left, and Jenn As­plundh clean and pre­pare cages.

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