Wildlife Care Clinic offers volunteer opportunities for hands-on experience with Iowa wildlife

Clinic staff Adriana Negron (left) and Dr. Bianca Zaffarano (right) checks an owl’s injured leg. The Barred Owl was brought into the clinic two weeks ago with the right side of its body badly injured. The owl sustained fractures on both its right wing and its right leg. The staff did an X-ray on the owl on April 12, 2013, and results showed that the fracture on the owl’s wing is healing. The doctor believes the owl will be able to fully recover and get back to the wild.

Samantha Weese

The Wildlife Care Clinic, located at Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was established in 1984 with the primary mission to provide medical attention, rehabilitation and facilities for injured and orphaned wildlife.

The clinic is a nonprofit organization and runs on donations, fundraisers, income from educational events and the dedicated time of volunteers.

Lauren Darnold, junior in animal science, started volunteering at the clinic her freshman year and is now a part of the full-time staff.

Darnold is in charge of the program’s public relations and is also the treasurer.

“I thought it was a great way that you could actually interact with animals during your undergraduate years,” Darnold said.

The clinic currently has five full-time undergraduate staff members with positions in head of inventory, head of medical records, treasury and public relations programs and volunteer coordinator.

“So we each have a specific niche that we work in to keep the clinic running smoothly,” Darnold said.

Along with full-time staff members, the clinic has about 100 volunteers who come in and donate their time to helping the clinic and the animals.

“There is an online application process and volunteers need to provide two references and be 16 years of age. Otherwise it’s open to anyone interested in volunteering,” Darnold said.

Tasia Nielson, a senior double-majoring in animal science and animal ecology, started off volunteering her freshman year and is now head of staff at the clinic.

“I came and started volunteering and I loved everything about it. I fell in love with the permanents and the patients,” Nielson said.

Although volunteering is open to all, the clinic’s staff looks for people who are passionate and serious about helping the clinic and the animals that come through it.

“We don’t want people to volunteer here just to get hours,” Nielson explained.

“We want people who are going to want to make the clinic a better place, who are passionate about animals and who have ideas to help move the clinic forward. That’s usually what we look for.”

Volunteers can gain hands-on experience with the wildlife and gain communications skills through the education and fundraising events, but volunteering at the clinic involves a lot of hard work.

“Part of our job is the fun stuff like clinical aid and hanging out with the animals, but then a lot of it is cleaning, maintenance of the clinic, making sure the clinic has the things it needs and doing a lot of fundraising,” Darnold said. “A lot of people complain that it is a lot of cleaning and hard work, but that’s what keeps the clinic running.”

Volunteers can expect to do tasks ranging from cleaning, administering medicine to the animals and running errands to participating in fundraising events, which is a large portion of what the clinic does because it is nonprofit.

“All volunteers can do the volunteer fundraising committee, which is actually really cool,” Nielson explained. “They can come up with ideas for fundraisers, they organize them, and they perform them, so it’s really a good way for them to get involved.”

Volunteering at the Wildlife Care Clinic can offer a rewarding experience.

“It’s definitely given me a lot of experience just handling the animals. You work with a lot of native Iowa species that you normally wouldn’t get the chance to,” Darnold said.

Nielson is attending veterinary school in the fall at Iowa State and says her experience at the clinic has greatly helped her.

“This job is amazing,” Nielson said. “During my vet school interview, they were amazed at all of the experiences I’ve had here.”