By Jim Walsh, CIP Bloomington staff
Hunter, a Bloomington Center first-year student, is volunteering at WildCare this summer, an organization that provides professional care to injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife in order that they may be returned to the wild. WildCare also promotes education through outreach programs at area schools. Hunter works twice a week and learns from WildCare staff how to care for the animals.
“When I first get there,” Hunter explained, “I help make the white-tail fawn baby-formula, which we mix with warm water and pour into baby-bottles. There are about 18 fawns; you have to keep track of how much they drink by the color markings on their ears or their backs, and you often have to push them aside so that you are only feeding the one you intend to.”
Many of the fawns were found on the side of the road next to mothers that had been hit by passing vehicles. Occasionally, people find the fawns in their forests and attempt to take care of them; however, without the care and attention of their mothers, they quickly grow sick and sometimes die. That said, affection from staff is more than welcome.
“After we feed, the fawns come up and lick my hands and my neck–they seem to like my earrings, too!”
Hunter works the remainder of his shift preparing food for the baby birds (a food processed blend of berries, vegetables, yogurt, and a couple teaspoons of meal worms), cleaning out the turtle tanks (which requires extra care due to turtles often carrying salmonella). Hunter also gives the squirrels their nut/vegetable/fruit food mixture and occasionally cleans out the raccoon cages.
Each task requires detailed documentation, communication with staff, and patient focus–these animals are wild, not pets, so Hunter must always be respectful and cautious working with them. That doesn’t mean that some of the animals don’t like playful attention–in the early evening, Hunter knows by sound of four hamster wheels frantically spinning that the baby opossums have woken up and are ready for some fun interaction and their daily cage cleaning.