Discover a wild place to volunteer
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.