Saturday, May 23, 2015

So You Want To Work With Animals

Working with animals is very rewarding work.  As a naturalist at the World Bird Sanctuary, I enjoy working with our critters every day.  But many people get the idea that it’s all cuddles and fun!  No matter if you want to become a veterinarian, wildlife rehabilitator, naturalist, or biologist, if you work with animals, you will be doing a lot of dirty work.

All animals poop.  It is a fact of life.  And that poop doesn’t magically disappear!  At WBS, we have to clean bird poop several times a day.  In fact, birds do not have a bladder, which helps them to stay light since they don’t have to carry around the weight of their waste.  This means that they go to the bathroom A LOT!  Whether you work with birds, reptiles, or mammals, you can be sure that cleaning up animal poop will be a big part of your job.  Clean enclosures make for happy, healthy animal residents.

Wedge-tailed eagle Duncan enjoying a meal of rabbit. (photo: Paige Davis)

Another big part of animal jobs is preparing food.  At WBS, we have more than 250 animals to feed every day!  Most of our animals are birds of prey, which are carnivorous.  We feed our birds a natural diet consisting of things such as rats, mice, rabbit, fish, etc.  All of these food items need preparation on a daily basis.  It can be messy work gutting and prepping hundreds of food items each week!  If you want to work with animals, you will very likely have to prepare diets for the critters you care for.  It is all worth it when one sees the animals enjoying a good meal.

All of our enclosures need to be maintained...from chicken coops to Condor enclosures,,, 

Another part of the job is maintaining animal enclosures.  At WBS, we have to do major maintenance days twice a year, in addition to the daily maintenance.  It is important for the safety of the animals that their enclosures are monitored and kept in good condition.  With the change of seasons, we have to make adjustments to our enclosures to keep the animals comfortable as the weather transitions.  It can be hard work, consisting of climbing, using power tools, and getting muddy.  But the safety of our animal residents is our top priority.

...including the behind the scenes enclosures which the public rarely sees,,,and, alas, none of them clean themselves (photos: Gay Schroer)

On a different note, some animal related jobs do not allow “cuddling”.  If you work in a wildlife rehab for example, the animals are to be kept as wild as possible to give them a good chance of being returned to nature.  Cuddling is prohibited.  At WBS we do not even pet our birds.  Not only are these wild animals that would not appreciate being touched, but also the oils in human skin can cause damage to birds’ feathers.  It may seem tempting to try and pet animals as cute as owls, but they are much happier and healthier getting love through your hard work caring for them.

Even though a big part of working with animals is dirty work, it is definitely worth it.  I wouldn’t give up the opportunity to work with such amazing animals for anything in the world.  But it is important to know just what you are getting into.  If you love animals, and don’t mind getting down and dirty, a career in the animal field may be right for you!  One way to find out is to gain experience through volunteering and interning.  WBS offers unique opportunities to gain hands on experience in the wildlife field.
To find out more, Click Here

Submitted by Paige Davis, World Bird Sanctary Naturalist

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