Summarizing my two months at MARS is going to be much harder then I thought as I could probably write at least a page for each day. I think that says a lot about my experience here and how much I have learned in the skills of animal care, my knowledge of birds and small mammals, public relations, fund raising, and the politics of working in this field. It all started when I first met Maj, I was nervous and felt completely useless and lost. The first day I couldn’t even remember the names of all the buildings. After having volunteered a few days before my internship I was beginning to learn the ropes. After the first week and working twelve-hour shifts things began to come together. I learned quickly that animal care is a demanding job and the patients require a lot of work and as interns we’re on call for their needs. I learned how to feed baby birds and that feedings every fifteen minutes are quite intense but very rewarding when you see them transition from a baby into a flying juvenile ready for release.

I think it’s because you spend so much time with them and give them so much care you really appreciated their success and yours. That’s why a specific robin was one of my favorite cases. It came in with a hurt leg and would walk and perch on its hock joint. She used her wings to help balance herself and when she ate she would fall forward. I saw her every day get better at adapting to her disability. She grew into a juvenile robin and we moved her into global where she learned how to fly, but was still perching on that hock joint. Then one day I went into to global and saw her perching on both feet and was amazed. Shortly after she was released and it was a rewarding experience.

I quickly went from working with small birds to large raptors. I learned how to hold an eagle properly in order to tube fed it, give meds and examine it. The first time got my adrenaline running that’s for sure. They are very powerful and beautiful animals and now looking back it’s quite amazing to know that I’ve been that close to them. Every time you work with them it gets your heart going which they know, and that was something else I learned how animals can feel if we’re nervous. This was really interesting and seeing how being calm and slow around them is much more effective. It’s very challenging the first few times and takes lots of practice to handle the eagles. I enjoyed being challenge and when Maj would just ask me to hold an eagle, at first being hesitant but then I realized I could do it.

My advice to future interns is to take advantage of any opportunities you can and to challenge yourself but sometimes you do need a push. One of my biggest challenges although you may not believe it at first was picking up a baby raccoon. Yes of course they’re cute but they are quite snarly and intimidating, so I needed a push to get in there and pick him so I could feed him. Maj reminded me that he is a baby and I am bigger than him, which made me laugh and put it in perspective.

My favourite animals that I cared for were the seals; I’m an aspiring marine biologist and was fascinated by them. They’re very interesting and make noises just like people. My experience with them has made me want to pursue marine mammal rehabilitation.

Most of the time the experience at MARS is fun and interesting but there are rough times of course. With animal care comes a lot of dirty work which is not so fun but needs to be done. Lots of laundry and cleaning dirty cages. Scraping eagle feces was probably the grossest job I did but doing it with other interns and volunteers made it go by faster and you just come to laugh about it. Days can be quite stressful as sometimes you have a million things to do at once and you feel like you’re doing everything wrong. The learning process is quite scattered and can be frustrating. I asked other interns and volunteers questions all the time, I’m sure Julianne the first intern of the summer can vouch for that, but I was lucky as she enjoyed training people. You really have to take initiative here and if you don’t know something research it or ask for help. Another tough part is when the animals that come in are really hurt it is difficult to watch, also many have to be euthanized. I learned that it’s just as much a part of animal rehabilitation as taking care of animals because it can really be another form of release.

I have made a lot of great friends this year and met a lot of amazing people. We had a lot of fun and there are countless inside jokes between the other interns Laura Ken, Julianne, Sylvia, Lisa and I. Julianne, Laura Ken and I worked on a project to raise money for the injured and orphaned fawns that we received. We wrote an article that was published in various local papers and raised over a thousand dollars which was so rewarding. I wasn’t expecting such a response from the community, there are so many people out there that care and want to help.

Maj also sent us off on field days. I went to a Vet clinic a few times and watched some surgeries which I almost passed out from, one on a great blue heron which was fascinating. On another field day I looked at eagle nest trees with Cindy Shannon who is working on her PhD. On another day I went with Maj looking for heron nests. This helped me realize where my interest lied. I encourage future interns to let Maj know what you interests you.

Releases were really fun and you see the result of all the hard work. My Favorite was a great blue heron release on Cortes Island with another intern Laura Ken. We had him from when he was an orphaned juvenile and could not fly, fed him, watched as he learned how to fly then brought him back to his territory on Cortes Island.

I would like to thank Maj and Keith for giving me the opportunity to work as an intern at MARS and teach me everything they have. I have truly enjoyed this experience and am looking forward to using what I have learned in the future. Thanks Keith for the homemade treats and Maj for a few “melting emergencies” from Dairy Queen. Most of all thanks again for this experience. My most memorable summer yet by far.

Chantal Levesque UVIC Biology Student