Rabbits and Owls and Ducks, Oh My!

Hello! My name is Zoe Tai, and I am an extremely grateful Summer 2018 WOW Fellowship recipient. Let me start off with a quick introduction of myself. I am currently a rising junior at Brandeis University and am majoring in Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in HSSP; this summer I decided to go ahead and connect my interests in biology and field science with my passion for animals and nature. Through this search, I am now a proud Wildlife Care Intern with Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farms Wildlife Sanctuary located in Lincoln, MA.

Drumlin Farms is an environmental educational center, a working farm and a wildlife sanctuary for native non-releasable species. Their mission is to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife alike. Drumlin Farm’s Wildlife Care Department (WLC), where I work, is a long-term care facility for injured or orphaned wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild.  All of the animals at the sanctuary are residents that are often showcased during education programs or on exhibit for visitors of the farm. While they are not out on programs or out on exhibit they live in the Wildlife Care Center.

A map of Drumlin Farms and the WLC building circled in red. Illustration courtesy of The Lincoln Squirrel.
Our resident fisher here at Drumlin Farms. She loves to sleep in her hammock!

I get the privilege of working with these animals through daily tasks such as cleaning, training and prepping diets. Every day, the staff, interns and other volunteers roll into the building at 8 AM and start off the day by cleaning each and every animal enclosure. They have a pretty strict handling clearance process that begins with shadowing a staff member handling and cleaning the enclosure, followed by independently transferring the animals to their carriers and cleaning with supervision, to finally being cleared on the particular animal. Some animals are of course off limits to me, mainly the mammals such as the porcupine, the fisher, and the fox as they are rabies vectors. Even with these precautions and rules in place I still have had so many interactions with different New England species. In my first full week alone, I have been allowed to work with the domesticated rabbits, the ducks, the northern bobwhite, both the turkey vultures and the black vulture, the barred owls, the red-tailed hawks, and the painted-turtles to name a few, and there are still so many more.

The diet counter where we prepare animal diets.

After we’ve cleaned every enclosure and have taken a lunch break, the other interns and I prepare the diets for all of our animals. We make sure that each animal gets the proper diet and try to mimic what they would naturally eat in the wild and follow a strict recipe tailored to each individual animal. With all the chopping and food prepping we do, the other interns and I are ready to become professional vegetable mincers.

 

When all of the husbandry is taken care of, all of us interns meet with our supervisor and discuss our individual intern projects. During this internship, I will need to complete a project relating to wildlife care. Being the newest intern to the team, I have yet to decide on a project but many of the other interns have amazing projects such as training a timid barn owl to become desensitized and become used to human handling and interacting, building a new animal enclosure, and even a wildlife observation research project using night-vision trail cameras.

Two of our Barred Owls in their enclosure.

This internship is providing me with a chance to directly interact with animals and learn about how to care and train them; something that I have never really experienced. With my interest in possibly pursuing veterinary school or field biology in the future, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to dive into the grit and the wildness that comes with working with animals from an amazing and educated staff. My goal for this summer is to become familiar with all the species here on the farm and to be able to engage in conversations with visitors about animal behavior and habits to promote a responsibility for conservation and sustainability for nature. I have learned so much from this one week at WLC and cannot wait to see what the summer has in store!

-Zoe Tai ’20

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