No two days are ever the same!

Some days I’m feeding tortoises…

Bowser by Cyrene krey
Bowser is a sulcata tortoise that arrived malnourished. Because of his stunted growth, he has to be handfed. Depending on his mood, the temperature, and the season, he alternates between having a voracious appetite and barely touching his food. But it’s our job as volunteers to make sure he’s getting plenty to eat, even if that means spending extra time sitting on the floor putting food in front of his face or trying to feed him later than usual. It might mean longer shifts or sore backs from leaning over to feed him. But the important thing is that he doesn’t ever suffer from malnutrition again!

…some days I’m doing educational programs…

Gloved hand holding an adult screech owl
Screech owls are adorable little owls that perpetually look like babies, even when full grown. There are several at the rehab center I volunteer at that can’t be released and work as animal ambassadors for educational programs. We always try to take owls that are being less difficult on any given day, but that’s impossible to predict…which is why we always we gloves 😉

…and other days I’m petting cats!

Black and white stray cat laying on a bed
I don’t know his “official” name, but since he arrived, I’ve called him Fishsticks. When he first showed up at the center as I stray, I instantly started cuddling him up and giving him food. It wasn’t long before everyone was doing the same with this sweet, little guy and he wiggled his way inside all our hearts (and the temperature controlled building).
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Fun with Vultures

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One of the things I’m lucky enough to be able to do is speak about turkey vultures during educational events for the wildlife rehab center I volunteer at. Although vultures tend to be portrayed as the bad guys in movies, they’re actually incredibly important to have around! They’re the unsung heroes of nature.
Shawnee National Forest vultures in southern Illinois
Turkey vultures tend to hang out in groups. The director of “Hoo” Haven, Karen, refers to them as very “family oriented birds.” Although you may see just one vulture gliding overhead, if you look closely, you’re sure to spot others nearby.
Vulture sitting near road by farmland in Illinois
Turkey vultures are scavengers. Although this has earned them a pretty unpleasant reputation, it’s actually great for us! By cleaning up nature’s leftovers, we have less to worry about regarding the spread of disease (or the bad smell of decomposing bodies everywhere).
Educational animals at Hoo Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation
These are the two I’m lucky enough to get to work with! The one in the back is TJ, who is super sweet. The one in the front is Matava, not quite so sweet but definitely always entertaining!

Baby squirrels don’t wanna grow up!

Baby squirrel photography by Cyrene Krey
These recently weaned baby squirrels didn’t like the idea of being exclusively on solid food. While I was trying to clean their temporary accommodations, this little guy kept running over to chew on my finger. They certainly are cute, but it’ll be better for everyone when they’re back in the wild where they belong!
Squirrel licking sap by Cyrene Krey
Making sure if you’re doing any tree trimming that you check before and after for nests and babies. It’s best if they remain in the wild with their mothers. Wildlife rehab centers should always be a last resort for baby animals. Where else will they learn cool tricks like licking sap off of tree branches for some sugary goodness?
Walking a creek in Roscoe Illinois forest preserve

Leave it better than you found it

Frog Monitor Sign by Cyrene Krey
Leaving it better than I found it is important in all my outdoor recreation activities. I may take it to an extreme not everyone wants to (or can) by making it my career. But I also enjoy finding ways outside of work to enjoy nature while preserving it. Citizen science is a great way to do just that. By collecting data as a volunteer, I can help scientists know where and how to focus their conservation efforts. Plus, it gives me access to forest preserves when they’re typically closed to visitors!
White pelicans being photographed at a rehab center
Me doing what I do best! Any nature themed volunteer work is a great way to give back. Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center allows me to be a part of the process of returning injured wildlife to nature. Now when I go hiking and see an animal, I can wonder if it’s one of the hundreds I’ve helped get back out to the wild.
Walking a creek in Roscoe Illinois forest preserve
Sometimes hiking is far from glamorous. I carry a bag with me so that I can pick up any trash I come across. This can occasionally land me wading through a creek to collect some piece of garbage that doesn’t belong there.
Turkey vulture shirt wearing woman on a hike
A trash-free forest preserve always makes me smile!

If you would like to see what I’m doing for nature and how you can also help, check out Preserving the Future on my website. If you love that awesome turkey vulture shirt I’m wearing, go buy your own turkey vulture themed merchandise here!

Give and Take (Photos)

I like to take photos of the critters I work with at the rehab center. But there’s so much work to be done that often I’m too tired after a full shift. So what I do instead is go on for a mini-shift on a day I usually have off. It’s a decent exchange: a couple extra hours of work from me for a chance to photograph my furry, feathery, and scaly friends. Nobody minds that you’re snapping a few photos if you’re making their shifts shorter.

An orphaned baby crow in Durand, Illinois
Baby animals are a pretty common sight throughout the spring and summer months. This little blue-eyed baby crow had to be hand-fed wet cat food when he first arrived.
Baby squirrel photography by Cyrene Krey
A young squirrel eating a tomato. Orphaned squirrels are really common to end up with at a rehab center. They’re friendly when they’re really little (generally), but they tend to get a little aggressive as they get older. That’s also around the time we try to release back into the wild where they belong.
White pelicans being photographed at a rehab center
Me doing what I do best!

The Snake Whisperer

I guess if I’m a crow whisperer, I guess I may as well be a snake whisperer too!

One of the interns was a little nervous about one of our snakes. She’s a little persnickety (the snake, not the intern) and gets a little impatient for food. Sometimes she’ll bite people if they’re not feeding her fast enough. So the intern asked if I would take care of it. Since I adore all our snakes, I happily agreed.

Domestic corn snake at rehab center
This little troublemaker does not like waiting for food. Corn snakes are generally friendly and easy to handle, but it’s important to work with them regularly. If all they’re used to is being left alone and fed, they’re prone to strike at anything that enters their enclosure because they don’t realize it isn’t food.

The little terror was leaning against the door, so as soon I opened it up, she slipped right into my arms. I wrapped her around my neck, cleaned her enclosure, put her back, and fed her. The intern was a bit impressed, both that I didn’t get bitten and at how comfortable I was handling such a little beast. She jokingly called me the snake whisperer.

Really, I just know all about being hangry too.

The Crow Whisperer

 

Twinkletoes the Crow at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Twinkletoes is a crow that has to stay at Hoo. He’s missing part of his lower beak. He’s very friendly and very mischievous! He stole my lens cover and I had to play tug of war with him to get it back 🙂
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I’m sometimes teased as being the crow whisperer. When this little guy is being friendly (which is often), I feed him snacks out of my mouth and give him kisses and head scratches. This is why we’re buddies.