This summer, I had the incredible opportunity of interning at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn Illinois. Willowbrook Wildlife Center rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife so that they can one day be released back into their natural habitats. I have always adored animals and wanted to explore the possibility of a career in wildlife conservation. Being just a half hour’s drive away from my home, Willowbrook had always been a place that I loved to visit as a child, so it made perfect sense for me to apply as soon as I learned of their internship program last year.
For a period of six weeks, I worked an 8 and a half hour shift every Sunday and Monday. Although the areas that I was assigned to work in rotated daily, my typical tasks consisted mainly of cleaning and setting up pens and supplying the patients with their food. My favorite job was probably caring for the young animals. At any given time, Willowbrook housed dozens of nestling and fledgling songbirds, and each one of them needed to be fed a special diet with tweezers at least once every half hour in order to stay healthy, so any assignment in the Bird Nursery kept me very busy! I also formula-fed baby squirrels, which was always a bit tricky because the squirrels did not enjoy being picked up—I was required to wear a thick leather glove during this task since they have a tendency to bite! Working with raccoons was always interesting as well, as they were often very curious and would sometimes attempt to steal my sponges or play with my hose. No matter what area of the center I was assigned to, I had a great time observing and interacting with the all of the charismatic creatures that I encountered. By the end of my shifts, I often felt tired and a bit gross, but also very satisfied in the fact that I was actively helping hundreds of patients along their road to recovery.
Since Willowbrook admits over 9,000 patients every year, I had ample opportunity to learn to care for and handle a wide variety of wildlife species native to the Midwest, which is a skill that would likely come in handy for a wide variety of environmental careers. I now know that I would definitely enjoy a career centered in wildlife, and hope to continue to help out at Willowbrook in the future as a volunteer. However, I now feel that I may want to focus my career more on protecting and restoring natural areas so that these amazing creatures and others like them will have a place to call home for a long time to come.