Feeding Eagles and Examining Owls: Clements experiences wildlife rehabilitation in Washington State

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Many people spend their Fourth of July holiday shooting fireworks, eating hot dogs and relaxing on the day off work. But according to Hastings College senior Carolyn Clements, she may have had the most patriotic Fourth of July of all.

“I spent my Fourth of July hugging a bald eagle. I’d be hard pressed to hear of a more patriotic way to spend the Fourth,” said Clements.

And best of all, by hugging that bald eagle Clements was doing her job.

Caring for critters 

A wildlife biology and studio art major, Clements spent her summer working at South Sound Critter Care, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Kent, Washington. In addition to general intern duties such as cleaning cages, feeding animals and processing paperwork, Clements also gained valuable experience assisting with intake exams, triage and special care.

“Each intern had a specific project or animal to care for,” Clements said. “I cared for a pygmy owl that came in emaciated, feeding and monitoring him throughout the summer. He was a full-time job in himself, but was doing much better by the time I left, which was really rewarding to see.”

But like with any medical or veterinary job, there are downsides.

“There were definitely days when nothing seemed to go right,” said Clements.“But releasing an animal made all of the sadness and tough nights totally worth it. A poor little bird who couldn’t fly and came in emaciated was able to be let go and fly away. It’s such a great feeling to know you helped that animal get back to where it belongs.”

Around the clock care

South Sound Critter Care focuses on smaller wild animals native to Western Washington, such as squirrels, rabbits and crows.

“The largest animal we had was either a thin bobcat, or really fat eagle,” said Clements. “Most of our animals were small, for example we could only take in a deer if it was young enough to still have spots.”

Compared to many internships that adhere to a strict 9-5 schedule, Clements’s experience at South Sound Critter Care was more varied.

“Your workday is not done when the clock hits ten, your workday is over when all of the animals have been cared for,” Clements said. “When 45 new animals come in, it doesn't matter what your scheduled hours are, you have to take care of all of them before you head home.”

Caring for animals can be a difficult and often time-sensitive task. According to Clements, the injured baby birds needed to be fed every 15 minutes, and that schedule remained strict.

Finding career paths through passions

Despite working primarily with mammals and birds, one of the most helpful classes Clements took at Hastings College was on insects.

“Dr. Beachley’s Invertebrate Zoology class prepared me to deal with all of the different parasites many of our animals would come in with,” said Clements. “It was also just a fun class because of how enthusiastic he is about the subject. He has such a great attitude that you can’t help but be excited, even about bugs.”

However Clements is not only a biology wildlife major, but is also majoring in studio art and has found ways to combine the two.

“Though I initially enrolled in my art classes for fun, I’m hoping to apply those skills to help nonprofit animal care centers like South Sound Critter Care,” Clements said. “Most of these centers rely on donations, and I’d love to offer my art to help them raise money.”

Great people, great future

After graduation, Clements is planning on getting a veterinary technician license so she can help with the medical aspects of animal rehab.

“You need to have a license to take x-rays or draw blood,” said Clements. “I was able to help with those over the summer, but with a license I would be able to conduct those on my own.”

But for now, Clements is focused on finishing her degree at Hastings College and enjoying her time as a college student.

“What makes Hastings great is the people,” Clements said. “My sorority just had our first meeting for the year, and there was so much joy. Everyone was coming back together for the first time since the summer and there was pure happiness in seeing our sisters.”

“That one meeting may be one of my fondest memories of college.”

By Nick Musgrave, a senior from Parkersburg, West Virginia, majoring in history and political science