When being accepted as an intern at MARS I have never been more excited. I applied here to gain hands on experience with birds and mammals after a long five years of book work at post secondary. I had no idea what to expect, but coming from northern Ontario, a completely different type of ecosystem, I was ecstatic to see the wildlife diversity of the west and get my foot in the door in paradise.
When arriving at Mountainaire one may not expect to be living in a trailer or having all your utensils and cookware tucked in Tupperware to keep safe from little critters at night, but the location is beautiful and it’s all part of the fun! There are local resident ducks that are very friendly and the household hound Reuben that puts a smile on your face.
Immediately you are thrown into the world of wildlife rehab; 7 am mornings and 12 hour days are not un-common. It was a real eye-opener to see how much you have to learn and do and how innovative you have to be to keep a wild animal alive and help them back to good health. Mountainaire was a team working environment. Your teaching comes from everyone, the volunteers who have been helping there for years, the wildlife rehabbers, local biologists and most importantly, your fellow interns. The first day working I witnessed over 10 different medications in specific amounts being pipetted, tubed and force-fed into all different kinds of birds. There are cleaning protocols, weight charts, rescues, laundry etc. that needs to be done in an efficient and timely matter. This was all extremely overwhelming but within a week you notice you’re beginning to do things on your own. Although, I am not going to lie, I was the last one out of my group of brave female interns to catch and feed the biggest bald eagle I have ever seen! This internship can also be dangerous at times as you’re catching, handling and feeding all different sizes of raptors. However, everyone understands of your individual comfort zone and you will be shown the proper and safe way of doing things before you decide whether or not you are comfortable doing any task asked of you.
Sometimes working and living 24 hours with your fellow colleagues can turn into a high stress environment. This is to be expected when you’re trying to save 40 different lives and have a hundred tasks to do. At the end of the day everyone understands and you have to fight the sweat and tears, but in the end it’s all worth it. You will see many animals die of their injuries and you will see many survive. The survivors are truly amazing and will always make your day. No effort is ever a waste.
In the end the six weeks flew by. I became used to sleeping on a couch in a trailer; waking up to rain every single day and most importantly learning about the intricate lives of the wild (they are so much more work than you think!!). I also really appreciate the friends I have met during this time and will have them now forever. 🙂