My internship was about learning how to care for injured wildlife native to North Carolina. I learned how to provide medical care for animals by calculating how much medicine they would need based on their weight, determining which medicines they would need based on their injuries, and properly administering the medication to the animal. I was also taught how to treat wounds by cleaning them and wrapping them. Additionally, I was educated about the various animal species that came into the sanctuary. I learned where they typically lived, what their diets were, and how long they typically lived for. Some of the tasked that I performed daily included feeding, watering, weighing, bandaging, splinting, administering medications, fluid therapy, physical therapy, and orphan care. I also handled wild animals on a daily basis whether it be to move them from one cage to another, take them outside for a bath, feed them by hand, or give them physical therapy. I was required to learn how to handle the animals properly so that I or the animal did not get injured.
A typical day at the sanctuary started with me arriving at 9 in the morning, making baby bird food, and then feeding over 100 baby birds by hand with a syringe while they all screamed at me saying they were hungry. After all the birds were fed, it was time to pull and administer the medicine for each animal that went outside for the day, which usually took me about an hour because I had to find all of the right syringes, dig out all of the right medicine, pull the right amount of medicine into the syringes without any air bubbles, get the right amount of pills, take each animal out of their cages individually, hold their mouth open while at the same time sliding pills down their throats and squirting medicine into their mouths, and then finally carry them outside to their enclosures. Then, I had to timed feedings. When an animal was on a timed feeding schedule, it meant that had to be fed a certain amount of food at a certain time each day because the animal was not eating on its own. Therefore, this type of feeding was not simply sticking a bowl of food into an animal’s cage and calling it a day. Instead, it was making liquid food, pulling it up into a syringe, attaching a tube to the syringe, and putting the tube down the animal’s throat in order to squirt the food into its stomach, or crop if it was a pigeon. If a loon was on timed feedings, however, the process would also include force-feeding the bird fish by shoving the fish down its throat. It was not a pretty sight, but it had to be done in order for the animals to stay alive. Each day there were about 10 timed feedings to do. After timed feedings, I worked in the back room where the turtles, bunnies, pig, adult possums, and Great Horned Owl were kept. There, I would medicate all of the animals, clean all of their cages, give them food, and feed the bunnies using a syringe. After the back room was done, I would bring all of the animals that were taken outside back in, feed the baby birds again, make sure all of the cages in the front room had been cleaned, feed the baby birds again, since they had to be feed every 20 minutes, and then finally lock up and leave. I should also add that at various points during my shift new animals would come in that needed immediate medical attention so I would have to drop everything that I was doing in order to provide for those animals by wrapping wounds, cleaning wounds, giving medicine, etc. My shifts were usually 8-10 hours long, and I almost always had to stay after my shift was over because there were just too many animals to care for.
My internship at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary was very difficult and took a lot of hard work, but what drew me to this specific opportunity was the fact that I would actually be able to handle wild animals and get hands-on medical experience, which is not easy to find when you don’t have any previous experience. I also felt like this internship would help me confirm, or deny, my veterinary medicine interest because the experiences I would get would give me the real feel of what it is like to see and deal with sick and injured animals, and it did.