Welcome to our intern and volunteer corner! Wild at Heart would not be able to exist without the dedication and hard work of all of our volunteers! Here, you can read testimonials from former interns, co-op students (high school and post-secondary level), and volunteers.
Some topics you’ll be sure to read about include: education/work background, why they choose to volunteer at Wild at Heart, and memorable animal experiences!
Isabel, intern from Germany, 2.5 months
Meet An Animal Care Intern: Isabel - Wild at Heart
Hi! I’m Isabel and I’m from a town near Cologne, Germany. I decided to join Wild at Heart because I wanted to take some time off between my bachelor’s and master’s degree for some charity work. For ten weeks, I was given the opportunity to help and take care of injured and orphaned wildlife that may not have survived without our help. Knowing this made this experience hugely satisfying and I really enjoyed my time here despite the hard work. I can’t really say which animals I loved the most but birds like Merlins, Kestrels and Blue Jays, as well as baby snowshoe hares and muskrats definitely have a high score in my ranking.
I had a lot of fun here with some funny and sometimes weird animals. For example, I took care of a chipmunk I had to weigh every day to see if it was growing alright. So, every morning I went into a small room where we kept the chipmunk in a cage and closed the door behind me. Another animal I remember well was a pigeon we got brought to us as a baby. It was so obsessed with food, that when it started to fly, it would fly right to the food I was holding. And last but not least, there was a very cute muskrat with a broken jaw, for which we had few hopes it would survive. I was taught how to inject it with painkillers and, nevertheless, it recovered well with our help. I was very happy when it could be released. So, thanks to Wild at Heart and the lovely people there, I take a lot of great memories back home!
Marta, intern from Barcelona, 2 months
Meet An Animal Care Intern: Marta - Wild at Heart
My name is Marta and I am a 25-year-old veterinarian from Barcelona. I volunteered at Wild at Heart to work with wildlife, practice my English skills, and learn about Canada.
Over 800 animals arrive at Wild at Heart every year, each one with their special story: broken wings, head injuries, orphaned, or having infectious diseases. My favourite story is a case of a fox that arrived very critically to the Centre. A woman found it after it had been run over by a car and left on the road. She immediately brought it to the Centre. An experienced intern and I met these women with the fox wrapped with blankets inside a car. She was very worried and drove an hour to save its life. When we triaged the fox, we found it to be depressed, unable to stand, blind, and its mouth was bleeding a little bit. We treated the pain and the dehydration and kept it in a warm and quite place. However, we were not sure that it could beat all its problems.
It was standing up and eating soft food the next morning; we were so happy! It regained its sight slowly, and one month later, it was ready to be released. I was able to go on the release along with the woman who had found the fox on the road. The moment the fox came out from the cage and went back to the woods was magic! It is one of my favourite moments at Wild at Heart.
Maia, intern from Canada, 4 months
My name is Maia and I am from Naughton, Ontario. I started volunteering because I needed community service hours for high school. I love animals so when I heard of Wild at Heart I wanted in! Prior to this experience I had worked with horses and domestic farm animals for several years. I loved working with the wild animals at WAH so much that instead of just getting my required 40 community service hours, I worked for the whole summer (over 200 hours worth). The following summer I was hired as an intern; I was an assistant Animal Care Leader and a Summer Camp Counsellor. When I was not officially working, I volunteered!
I have had so many incredible experiences while at WAH. My favourite was working with the three baby moose calves and to watch them grow. When they first came, I bottle fed them and had to play “referee” when the first one finished and tried to get the others’ food. Eventually they were transitioned to solid foods. I also looked forward everyday to caring for a one-eyed hawk named Burrito. We would wrap him in a blanket (like a burrito) and feed him small pieces of mice. We would also rub a special ointment on his eyelids. I enjoyed seeing him become more mobile and active each day.
Throughout my work I learned a lot. I had a great experience with my co-workers and I had a lot of fun. I encourage others to volunteer for this worthy cause.
Lotta, intern from Germany, 2.5 months
I had no real animal background before I came to Wild at Heart. For sure I have had some little experiences with animals, like caring for my cat at home or looking after our neighbours’ rabbits, but all this is not comparable to what I have done here.
I came to Wild at Heart because I wanted to experience something new – something that has been totally different to me and my life so far. I have just graduated from high school this year and spent a lot of time on all kinds of volunteer positions. I volunteered at Wild at Heart for two months, and I can tell you, it was definitely worth it! I mean I guess there are only a few people that can say they have had the chance to work with a Barred Owl, a raccoon, a bear cub, and two moose calves! And these are just some of the species I got to meet here.
We got a bear cub one day that got hit by a train and therefore had a head injury as well as a wound on the top of its head. At the beginning, it was unconscious, so we first fed it by hand using a spoon and syringe. Fortunately, it didn’t take it long to recover, and after 4 days of hand-feeding, it was even able to eat on its own as well as stand up and start its first movements. It was great to see it recover so well because I really felt like I was a part of this process and therefore a little proud of myself of course! Two more days later, it felt like it regained its original bear character again – it became a bit more active and a lot hungrier during the day. What a great success!
Not only did I get to meet some challenges with animal care here, I have also had the chance to experience other types of work that is done at Wild at Heart. For instance, I often went to various grocery stores to do some fundraising and general education about the Centre. It was very nice to get not only some positive feedback, but also many compliments every time people got interested in the facility. Further, I had the chance to help with some education events on a PD Day, and a birthday party.
So many new experiences! So many memories! So many people I got to meet here! Especially on a Christmas event I got to meet some of the other volunteers and had the chance to listen to their personal animal-care stories when volunteering at Wild at Heart. It was nice to have that kind of exchange of thoughts and impressions, and it was also a good opportunity for me to improve my English skills! For sure I am going to miss all of them as well as all the laughs, and the funny and awesome moments I have had with them!
All in all, I can tell that I have spent a great time while doing my internship at Wild at Heart – all the new impressions, experiences, and challenges are definitely going to be very helpful for me when taking future decisions. But every internship must come to an end somehow! All I can say for now is just that it doesn’t always take people being super experienced when volunteering; it takes people that are interested, willing to learn, and mostly willing to volunteer part of their free time to work and care for animals! This is what Wild at Heart is built up of – a hands-on internship!
Annika, intern from Germany, 3 months
Coming from the south-west of Germany, Canada was a whole new world for me. I have always liked animals, but never really had a passion for them or nature. Now, having seen all the beautiful lakes, forests, waterfalls and – thanks to Wild at Heart – animals, I really enjoy hiking and observing nature for the first time. It is amazing to work with two moose calves, seeing them grow and play.
But whereas orphans like the moose have a good chance of survival thanks to individual formulas and diets we prepare for every species, injured animals often come in critical condition. Especially close to my heart is a blue jay that was neither able to move nor to eat when it was brought in – our vet couldn’t say if it would survive the next few hours. Starting with hand feeding three mealworms every two hours, its condition has improved slowly and after three weeks of intensive care, it is finally able to eat on its own! This advance made me so happy and it is hard to say goodbye to that beautiful little bird as I would love to see it when it’s released.
It is great to see so many species at Wild at Heart that I’ve never seen before – from raccoons to snapping turtles to snowy owls – but it is even better to observe them in their natural habitat. That’s why releases were the highlight of my stay. It was amazing to see these raccoons exploring the forest, some curious, some careful. Releasing an animal has never been sad for me; I am just happy for every animal that is back to the wild, to freedom.
The experiences here are so memorable and I have been able to collect many of them, with animals, as well as people. I am glad that I took this step to go abroad alone and I’ll return home with new friends, knowledge, and experiences!
Aline, intern from Belgium, 3 months
I’m a soon to be graduated animal caretaker from Ghent in Belgium and dreaming of studying Wildlife Biology after I am done with Animal Care. Wild at Heart has only strengthened my resolve in doing so. My stay at Wild at Heart is an experience I will never forget. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love animals even more than I already did, but I was wrong. Coming here has taught me many things, from putting on wing wraps and tending to wounds to letting go, acceptance, resolve, discipline and many more.
I have seen the good and bad sides of when nature and humans collide and even though most animals that came to WAH during my stay got here because of humans and our colonising way of living, it was also humbling and downright amazing to see how we could, in return, help them recover and get back out there, where they belong. It’s an amazing experience and feeling to see an animal gradually get better and healthier the longer it stays in our care. I have seen animals come into the center who were half dead, yet persevered and pulled through, so far to the point that they could soon leave again, off to the wild. It made me realize as well that this is what I studied for all those years. Not for my own satisfaction, but for them.
I made many new friendships when I stayed at WAH. From laughing together, to mourning over a lost animal, to crafting happily with children in wildlife workshops. The people I met here were more than wonderful and more than I could have ever hoped for before I came here. Of course not only the people were memorable, the animals naturally played the biggest role of all. Some of my favorites had to be the snowy owl that arrived on the day I first got here. Snowy owls were probably my favorite animal in general here, as we don’t have them in my country. Their elegant and pretty plumage, yet dangerous and intimidating stature, but also goofy walk made me take a liking to them almost immediately.
The other animals that absolutely stole my heart, was a nest of six baby crows. Loud, hungry, messy, pterodactyl looking birds, but adorable they were. Feeding them every hour from 8 to 8 was not a job to me, it was something that I looked forward too and enjoyed every time again and again. Wild at Heart was an amazing place and there was not a day I didn’t enjoy my stay here, maybe someday I’ll be back here, working with the wildlife once again.
Jannicka, intern from Germany, 3 months
My name is Jannicka and I’m from a small town in Germany. After I graduated from high school last summer I decided to take a year off for myself. Probably like most people my age I needed time to think about what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to go. I always wanted to spent time traveling, exploring the world, and learning about different cultures.
I didn’t just want to travel and see a lot of new stuff, I wanted to do something that would be helpful. I always liked animals better than people and I had a lot experience with pets like cats, rabbits, hamsters, and such but I had never worked with wild animals in my whole life. Since we don’t have something like wildlife centers in Germany it seemed to be an amazing opportunity to try something like that – something new that would also help animals.
In the beginning, I was a little bit scared of some of the animals, but I soon realized that there was no reason to be. Most of the animals we got in where birds with broken wings or head traumas, but there were also worse cases like snowy owls that hit a car or something even bigger. They were in pain. It was the best feeling ever if you got to see an animal that came in with some real issues getting better and better every single day until it could be released again. It really felt like you did something to help in this world.
After just two months working with different types of animals I was able to take care of the animals by myself and to help making decisions what kind of medical treatment they’ll be needing, and whether they could be released or not.
I didn’t just learn a lot about wildlife animals here. I also learned a lot about new cultures, countries, and people. Starting with Canadians, over to Mexicans, Italians, Austrians, and Belgic people I met during my time here – how different we all are but how we all become one when it’s about taking care of a really badly hurt snowy owl or a little tiny Grosbeak with a broken wing.
Demi, intern from Canada, 2 months
Hey, my name is Demitria and I’m from Scarborough, Ontario. I major in biology at Trent University, but most of my animal care experience comes from my high school co-op placement at a veterinary clinic, volunteering at animal shelters, and working at a dog day care. I’ve wanted to become a vet since I was little, and I’m still following that dream. I chose to become an intern at Wild at Heart because I knew working here would give me the opportunity to expand my animal care knowledge, and grant me the experience of working with wild animals. Speaking of wild animals, they were a refreshing change from working with cats and dogs, and I would love to work with them again! It was always interesting to see new species come in, and it was very fun getting to learn about them as we cared for them. Getting to release animals that we rehabilitated was not only enjoyable, but it was also very rewarding.
Personally, my favourite experience was when we cared for and raised baby animals until they were old enough to get released. It felt nice seeing them “graduate” to bigger cages, try new food, and investigate new enrichments as they got older. Though I wasn’t able to experience this fully with the baby raccoons, I was mostly able to experience this with various baby songbirds that came in. Since there were so many kinds of birds (most of them were species I’ve never seen before!), I found it fun to try and guess what they would grow up to be based on their development and reference books.
I really enjoyed my experience at Wild at Heart, and I hope future interns, co-op students and volunteers enjoy it as much as I did!
Jen, intern from Canada, 2.5 months
Hi, I’m Jen from St. Catharines, Ontario. I am currently studying Zoology at the University of Guelph. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to pursue a career working with animals. When I came across Wild at Heart, I was very eager to apply because I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience with animal care, specifically with native species. I’ve had the opportunity to work with raptors, fawns, raccoons, foxes, waterfowl, turtles, and a variety of songbirds and rodents here.
During my internship, I’ve learnt a wide variety of skills such as how to safely handle each animal, wound/injury management, and food preparation. Every member of the staff is always open to questions and teaching, which is very helpful.
Some of my favourite animals to work with here are the raccoons. They all have so much personality and constantly make me laugh. They get so excited for any type of enrichment that is put into their enclosure, and it puts a smile on your face watching them play and interact with one another. I also had the opportunity to work with flying squirrels. Most people I know don’t even know that we have flying squirrels in Ontario. I was able to watch them grow from babies with eyes closed, still needing to be stimulated when fed, to having their eyes open and starting to climb. It is extremely rewarding watching an animal recover from an injury or grow up and be released back into the wild.
Samara, intern from Mexico, 2 months
Hi! My name is Samara Rangel and I’m from Mexico. After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine, I was looking for volunteering placements to get more hands-on experience in wildlife, and I can tell that at Wild at Heart I found what I was looking for.
Being here for two months was not only a good opportunity to learn more about local wildlife, animal handling, their feeding and care, but also to improve my English skills and as an intern meet people from different countries and of course make good friends! Everyone here was very friendly and they were always willing to help.
Some of my favorite parts of this internship was working with the raccoons, squirrels, fawns, as well as interesting birds like the bald eagle and the saw whet owl. The most gratifying thing was the possibility of looking to the animals grow when they were young or when they became better if they were injured. And releasing them after having taken care of them has been a deeply touching experience.
Kianna, intern from Canada, 3.5 months
I am Kianna from Edmonton, Alberta. As I approached my last semester of my Bachelors degree in biology I decided that I wanted to get hands on experience with animals. Previously, I had volunteered at a cheetah conservation and in a zoo setting. I have always known I wanted to work with animals, but career opportunities in the biological field are so diverse that I wanted to extend my knowledge on all the opportunities available for my future.
I had never seen raccoons in real life so they were basically an exotic animal for me, they quickly grew to be my favourite animal here which is slightly biased because red pandas are one of my favourite animals and they are very similar. When I arrived, it was spring time which was also baby season, and babies must be fed late into the night. The first few days were tough for me because of the late hours (I really like my sleep), but it was totally worth it to see the progress of how such small babies that can barely be recognized as their species grow into the adult versions we are more familiar with. As they grew up it was fascinating to see their personalities change, but a part of them always stayed the same. I have cared for a multitude of species from turtles to birds to deer while I have been here. Identifying bird species was surprisingly a very fulfilling task for me; before coming here I had very little knowledge about avians and didn’t particularly enjoy them. This experience has given me so much more than just hands on experience with orphaned, sick and injured wildlife.
Living on-site with the other interns was a whole experience by itself. We all came from different backgrounds of experience, education, and for some of us even different countries, but, at the end of the day the interns all shared the same love for animals. We could communicate and work together as a team not only regarding animal welfare but also life in general. Relationships grow very fast when you not only work together each day but also live in the same area and even room with one another; we definitely became one big family.
Hannah, intern from the UK, 6 months
I am Hannah from Devon in Great Britain. I have been working with wildlife for the past 2 years taking care of wolves and raptors and many other animals. I also have given education talks on these animals and how we can help them stay wild.
I picked Wild at Heart because I wanted to focus on rehab and see how other rehab facilities work. I had previously been at Mission Wolf, and another rehab and education centre called The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge (AWR). While there, I was taking care of their 3 wolves and doing education talks on- and off-site every day.
I can’t share everything that I have learned here; the times of pure joy when we worked so hard to save a kestrel that was hit by a car. For days, every time we went to check on him, we thought he was dead, and he kept fighting. In the end, he got the nickname “Arnold” (after The Terminator) as he kept coming back. Seeing him fly off after him being here for 2 months was just amazing. There were also sad times when wildlife died and they are fighting until the end and you were fighting right alongside them. It’s tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because it gives you fuel to save the next one and get that animal back to the wild. Seeing that just lifts your soul.
Sara, intern from Canada, 3 months
Hi! My name is Sara, and I’m from Vancouver. For me, this internship was a dream come true because I had always wanted to work as a wildlife rehabilitator and I’m passionate about wildlife conservation, so Wild at Heart was the perfect first experience for me. I arrived with no wildlife care experience, but I was taught everything I needed to know and was always encouraged to ask questions. I remember seeing the tiny baby raccoons for the first time and learning how to carefully stimulate and syringe feed them…before I knew it, their eyes were open and they were eating from bottles, and my love for this job had grown.
One of the most memorable things I got to do here was feed the white-tailed deer fawns. They were so small and delicate, and it was exciting to see them interact with Timmy, the adult deer. When they were old enough to spend their day outdoors in the enclosure, I would have to go out into the tall grass to find three small, camouflaged fawns…most of the time it wasn’t easy!
My time here was wonderful and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Spending my summer here with like-minded individuals doing fulfilling, hands-on work was one of the best choices I’d ever made!
Luca, intern from Italy, 4 months
My name is Luca and I am a behavioural biologist from Italy. Almost one year ago I moved to Canada thanks to a working holiday visa, and I started looking for a position in the wildlife rehabilitation field; this is how I ended up at Wild at Heart.
As a university student I felt like, despite my preparation, I was missing the kind of ”first hand” experience that is required to work with animals. An internship here at the centre offered me the perfect occasion to fill that gap. I had the chance to work with a lot of people with very different backgrounds, and learn something from all of them; every other intern, volunteer and even the people in charge were always ready to help, involve me in new experiences, and share their knowledge and preparation. I don’t need to point out that this is the best kind of learning experience you can get; nothing beats assisting a veterinarian on medical techniques you are not familiar with (almost all of them, in my case!), getting a chance to try them yourself under his supervision, or work with different animals assisted by people with way more experience than me.
If I had to point out one single experience I consider a good example of all this, I would probably choose the rehabilitation of baby raccoons. Receiving orphaned raccoons in a lot of different conditions, requiring medical attention, special treatments, or even just food and warmth can sound like a challenging and even scary experience. But assisting them at every stage of the process, and watching them growing and gaining strength up to the point where they can go back into the wild is definitely a great achievement. If even this is not enough, just imagine taking a walk being followed by 4-5 young raccoons who explore the outside world for the first time. At this point I can only hope to put all the skills I gained at Wild at Heart to a good use, and for my experience here to be just the start of a career in a field I love so much. Thanks to everyone who helped me during these months!
Amanda, intern from Canada, 2 months
Hello, I’m Amanda from Montreal, Quebec. I have always loved nature and the fauna within it since I was a kid – I was the only 10 year old that knew the word ornithologist! I have been studying environmental and wildlife management at Vanier College in hopes of one day becoming an animal rehabilitator. I have had some previous experience handling wildlife through bird banding and small mammal trapping projects but Wild at Heart gave me an unbelievable introduction into the world of rehabilitation. I was interning during the winter which isn’t the busiest of seasons but it allowed me to fully understand techniques and procedures and participate in the care for all of the animals of Wild at Heart. While here, I was able to learn everything from the basics of food preparation to the more involved techniques like wing wrapping.
An animal that I was able to spend a lot of time with during my internship was the white-tailed deer fawn. He presented with stunted growth which made it necessary to provide hands-on daily care for him like hoof scrubbing. He wasn’t a big fan of grooming but he was easily distracted by green beans, one of his favourite foods. One of my favourite times at Wild at Heart was the enrichment project for the raccoons. We made what I like to call ‘zucchini boats’ which were fruits and veggies skewered onto a popsicle stick which was then stuck until a zucchini half. Watching the raccoons try to figure out what this new creation was in their enclosure and then trying to take the food off of the sticks was a wonderful and validating moment. Even though I’ve been in a wildlife program, Wild at Heart allowed me to develop rehabilitation skills that I am eager to continue practicing throughout my career. Thank you so much for this experience!
Jaclyn, intern from Canada, 6 months
My name is Jaclyn and I have had a passion for animals since I was a child. This is why I joined the Wild at Heart team, where I quickly became a part of a team from around the world with the exact same interest as me. My new friends taught me how to work with many different animal species that I had never had the chance to interact with before. The first animal I worked with were baby raccoons. It was hard work cleaning up after them, and having them depend on me to bottle feed them. One in particular, nicknamed Tiny, worked his way into my heart, and taught me how to be patient and responsible for another’s life. But this program isn’t just about looking after cute animals, but making sure they can live without us. The first animal I ever released was a herring gull, which I had fed and looked after for many weeks until he was old enough to look after himself. He made me love birds when I had never liked them before. To release him and watch him fly so high I could barely see him made me so happy. I could see how happy he was to be free, and that is what I love about this place – you put so much time and energy into these little animals, and you get that accomplished feeling when they don’t need you anymore. I will never forget this experience that has helped me to become a better person, and I hope to use all what I have learned in order to help many more animals in the future.
Natashka, intern from Netherlands, 6 months
My name is Natashka, and I am from The Netherlands. I wanted to go to Canada to work with wildlife. I started a six month internship in April, and in this time I gained lots of experience with the native Canadian wildlife. Being an intern at Wild at Heart is way more than taking care of injured or orphaned animals – it has helped me become more patient, independent and capable of working as a member of a group. Canada is such a gorgeous country and the inhabitants as nice as the tales and myths promise. I as well made some awesome new friends and want to thank the supervisors and fellow human beings for accepting me into the team! It was a pleasure to work with you! Thank you so much for giving all these animals a second chance in life.
Sarah, intern from Canada, 3.5 months
My name is Sarah, and I grew up in the small town of Port Perry, Ontario. As a recent graduate from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, I longed for hands-on experience working with wildlife. I graduated with an Honours Bachelor in Environmental Management and specialized in wildlife conservation and management. After my summer placement at Algonquin Park finished, I found my diversity in work experience was lacking. I started looking into voluntary opportunities within the province to gain invaluable hands-on experience working with wildlife. I found a variety of rescue centres I was interested in, but many did not require volunteers throughout the winter season. My internship with Wild at Heart lasted 17 weeks, ending mid-June, just at the start of the busy summer months.
My internship has been one of the most memorable experiences. In my first week, I got to assist in caring for pigeons, turtles, waterfowl, a beautiful snowy owl and bald eagle, raccoons, and chipmunks and squirrels – and the species list just grew from there! Not only did I get ample experience working hands-on with a vast array of Ontario wildlife, but I also met the most amazing and interesting people from all over the world, creating lasting friendships. Before starting at WAH, I had little real knowledge of wildlife care, having grown up with cats and dogs, I had some knowledge but it was very limited. I learned so much about how to properly care for animals, from proper handling techniques, physical examinations upon admission, monitoring changes in health, and determining feeding schedules and diet requirements. One of my most memorable patients while volunteering at WAH was the admission of an adult American mink who had been allegedly hit by a car. He came in and was not moving – many of us were unsure whether he would make it though the night. To our surprise, the following day he was up and trying to walk around, but his head injury caused him to be unbalanced. Over the next two-months, we cared for the mink, providing him with lots of stimulating toys, food, and occasionally a small pool to swim in. He grew stronger and gained weight steadily, until he was finally released by his rescuers. It was so fulfilling and rewarding to watch and be a part of his progress from admission to release. Additionally, the baby raccoons just melted my heart!
Simone, intern from Austria, 2 months
My name is Simone and I’m a 23 year old biology student from Graz, Austria. However currently I’m living at the Wild at Heart Refuge Centre in Lively because of my 10 week long internship as an animal care taker. I got the idea of doing an internship like this when I was volunteering for a sea turtle protection organization in Greece last summer. I was monitoring one of the nesting beaches one morning, when I found a badly injured adult sea turtle. Even though I’m a biology student I have to admit that I had no clue what to do. So I called my supervisor to come and help me. While I was sitting there waiting next to that poor animal, not able to help it, I decided that I wanted to do an internship where I gain important skills in animal care.
Exactly one year later I’m already halfway through my internship at Wild at Heart. Since I came here I’ve not only learned how to treat injured turtles, but also how to raise baby mammals and birds, treat injured reptiles and how to safely catch a bird without hurting the animal nor getting bitten by it. However, being here taught me way more than only the obvious things of animal care. For example, that it’s actually a good thing when the animals are afraid of you and sometimes even try to bite you. It indicates that they are still wild and have a better chance of getting released soon. So even though it is the first thing you want to do when you see a baby animal, it is always a bad idea to pet it. Another lesson that I had to learn here was that wild animals get stressed very easily. So it’s really important to make your interaction with the animal, whether it is cleaning the cage, making a wing wrap or performing a triage, as short as possible. Additionally, it is just an awesome experience to work with so many different people from all over the world, and to make friends at the same time who are all just as passionate as I am when it comes to wildlife.
Vera, intern from Germany, 3 months
My name is Vera and I’m an 18 year old from Germany. After finishing school I decided to come to Canada, not only to improve my English skills, but most importantly to gain experience in working with wildlife. By far, the best part about being an intern at Wild at Heart is seeing an injured or orphaned animal in our care grow healthy and strong. The opportunity to be so close to these native species, especially if they are really young, is a huge pleasure. The Centre hosts a variety of species. For this reason there were many occasions for me to experience all kinds of different tasks and skills to learn. From tiny mice and songbirds to curious raccoons and smelly skunks. I enjoyed observing them and learned a lot over the past few weeks. Even though it was hard for me to not treat the wild animals like pets, it‘s great to know that they will survive independently once released. One of my favourites are the four orphaned red squirrels which arrived here as babies. I learned how to hand-feed them with a specialized formula to replicate their natural diet. It was amazing to see how they improve and get stronger and wilder day by day. I am excited for the next two months to come!
Payton, intern from Canada, 2 months
I came to intern at Wild at Heart as a part of my program at Cambrian College and expected to gain more knowledge about human/wildlife encounters, but I learned far more than I thought I would. Not only did I learn about the do’s and don’ts when a baby or injured animal is found, but I also gained a great deal of patience. Animals in distress can bring out all kinds of emotions in people, understandably so, and working here has trained me in how to reassure and calmly guide people who call as to what the best thing to do may be. Because of this I feel more confident moving forward on to my future career (Conservation Officer) and helping both people and animals stay as safe as possible in difficult situations.
This was all made possible by the incredible individuals I was so lucky to work with and learn from, and the friendly and helpful work environment they created every day.
Yubi, intern from Japan, 5 months
First of all, I would like to thank all Wild at Heart members for having me for such a memorable and valuable 5 months. The experience I had at this Centre was what I have never had before, and it became wonderful and worthwhile in my career.
After I had worked as a veterinary technician at vet clinic for 4 years in Japan, I came to Canada to gain my experience in rehabilitating injured/orphaned wild animals. When I was in another wildlife Centre in BC for mammals, it was spring and summer time which is busy season with orphaned babies. I had taken care of many animals but then, I realized I would like to see more wild animals rather than just mammals. Here at Wild at Heart, they take mammals, birds, and reptiles.
By the time I arrived to this Centre in October, they were still bit busy with taking care of animals but lots of them were getting released before the serious winter comes. Because of the weather they get here in winter, which is deep snow and around minus 20℃ to 30℃, it could be hard for orphaned wild animals to survive over their first winter without their mother to teach them how to find their food resources or places to live.
I got to take care of some animals that were too small to release before winter or brought in to the Centre in bad shape or injured. I looked after many wild animals in different kinds of situations, followed a supervisor, senior volunteers and a vet at the Centre. For example, I worked with overwintering raccoons and squirrels, a fox with mange, an injured and orphaned moose calf, injured pigeons, raptors, little birds, turtles, etc. The most exciting thing about rehabilitating wild animals is to get them back in the wild when they are recovered and good enough to be by themselves. I loved to see the animals which I took care of getting released where they came from. There was a pine grosbeak which might have hit window and could not fly or stand properly when he came in. We applied a wing wrap and gave him painkillers. We gave him good care for a week, and then he was able to fly again so he got released by the rescuer. After 5 months of all of experience and learning, I became more confident in rehabilitating and treating wild animals.
Kathleen, intern from Canada, 5 months
I decided to do an animal care internship at Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge in order to gain more animal care experience and to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation. I had recently completed a Master of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Guelph and had spent the summer working with dairy cattle. I knew I wanted to continue working with animals and my internship at Wild at Heart was the perfect opportunity to continue learning.
During my internship from October to March, I had the opportunity to work closely with a variety of species of mammals, birds, and reptiles that were either sick, injured, or orphaned. I was able to utilize and build upon knowledge from my previous animal care experience. I also gained new animal handling skills such as how to properly handle raptors and I learned about several medical techniques including how to wrap injured wings and how to provide subcutaneous fluids. I practiced these new skills frequently during my internship with animals of all different sizes.
It was a great and fulfilling experience when an injured or sick animal was able to be released back to the wild. We had a fox come in to the Centre after being found by a road. It was having difficulty breathing and with the help of Walden Animal Hospital we were able to determine that it was likely due to bruising around the lungs but there was no serious damage. After providing fluids and a few days of rest the fox started to improve, and after a few days in an enclosure outside the fox was ready to be released by its rescuer.
My time at Wild at Heart allowed me to discover what is truly involved in wildlife rehabilitation, including the challenges faced with concern to both animals and people. In addition to gaining more animal care experience, I also had the opportunity to work with several volunteers from the community who were very passionate about wildlife. Additionally I was able to work and live with other interns from several other countries. My internship was a very rewarding experience I plan to use the knowledge and skills I’ve developed in a future related to animal care and welfare.
Marjolaine, intern from France, 1 month
As I was preparing my trip in Canada, I was organizing things so I could spend as much time as possible in truly wild places so I could enjoy wildlife. So I searched on the internet and found a rehabilitation centre for wildlife that accepted volunteer without experience!! Without a second thought I contacted them! After some negotiation, I was accepted there for March! I was coming from California (20°C, sun and the beach), and was going back to -19°C and snow. This was a good reminder that Canada is made for long, cold winter lovers!!
At WAH, there were 3 others volunteers and a manager that live on-site too. I had a presentation of the animals, turtles, pigeons, an eagle, a gull, a duck, a crow, a kestrel, a snowy owl, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. I never saw most of these animals up-close. Some of the animals were okay to be released and were just waiting for spring. The snowy owl for example has been released a few days after I arrived, so I saw the banding process that will let us know about her future adventures! Some still needed some care. I did some physio on the duck and crow (it’s unusual to do some stretching to a bird!) and cleaned a turtle’s shell with a tooth brush. Those come to the Centre because they have been hit by a car and have a cracked shell after that. So it doesn’t protect them anymore and can even break their spine as it’s attached to the shell.
The eagle and the crow were brought to the Centre after being caught by traps. The eagle has been transferred to a raptor centre because Wild At Heart does not currently have a big enough flight cage. I’ve learned a lot thanks to the other interns – now I can catch a bird without trouble, carry snapping turtles without getting hurt, see when an animal is stressed or in bad condition, and keep squirrels away when they think I’m a tree!
We also had new animals during this period, most of them were in a too bad shape for us to do anything, but some goes against the odds, like a mink that arrived in kind of a coma, without reflex or reaction after likely being hit by a car. The day after, he was awake but still inactive and didn’t move his back legs or tails. We thought maybe he had a broken spine. Then a few hours later, he’s running all around, with balance issues, but still! The vet from the clinic close to us confirmed that he had a concussion with blood pressing on the balance area in the brain, but if it was healing well, he wouldn’t have any trouble. Before I left, he was still doing okay!!
Raccoons will stay my favorites. They were so cute with their small faces and tiny hands!! I hope their releases will be fine!
Andrea, co-op student from Canada, 5 months
I decided that the best opportunity for hands-on experience that would further my knowledge to become a veterinarian would be a cooperative placement. Wild at Heart was the best place to engage with injured or abandoned animals and gain tons of knowledge with no experience, working face-to-face with each animal.
I got the opportunity to work with squirrels, raccoons, pigeons, songbirds, crows, ducks, ducklings, goslings, seagulls, and more. Some of the most enjoyable species to work with here were definitely the raccoons. Also, because I was here over the course of 5 months, I got to see them get transferred from formula to solid food and watch them grow up. I also really enjoyed the bird rooms in which I usually worked with just hatched and juvenile birds. Feeding them every 45 minutes to an hour and a half was very challenging though and a tight schedule needed to be maintained. I also really enjoyed working with the goslings. The 3 of them all had their own personality and were so creative into getting into mischief when I cleaned their area.
This co-op was very enjoyable not only because of the animals but also the interns are amazing and made the work fun. I really enjoyed my experience here and learned a lot about wildlife and animal care.