The latest entry in our Summer Intern Chronicles series...
My name is Katherine (Kat) Munsell, and my hometown is Spring, Texas. I currently attend Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan and am majoring in Genetics and Zoology. This summer I have had the incredible luck of being able to intern at Wild Care Cape Cod in Eastham. My first week there I learned how to properly clean dishes and do laundry following specific Wild Care protocols designed for the safety of the staff and the animals. I also learned how to feed baby songbirds. We make a specific food for them called insectivore, although it does not contain real insects. We feed them using feeding sticks. It was terrifying the first couple of times because I was afraid that I would hurt the birds’ throats, but then I was reminded that their parents have sharp beaks and do a pretty good job feeding their kids. We also feed them mealworms and crickets because that is closer to their natural diet and provides them with extra protein.
Once I mastered baby birds, I learned how to care for baby squirrels. The term "squirrely" is an apt description for a juvenile squirrel. Young squirrels can aspirate very easily, so I had to carefully monitor how much and how fast I fed them the formula we make them using a very small syringe. I learned that we must distance when feeding baby animals so they will not imprint on us. We only handle the squirrels during feeding times. They truly wild up when their instincts kick in at eight weeks. I have also learned how to feed baby mice, juvenile opposums, young raptors, baby turkeys, ducklings, and an assortment of other wild animals.
The mission of Wild Care is to Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release injured, sick, and orphaned wild animals. So far this summer, I have been on six rescues and five releases! It is the best feeling in the world to be able to release an animal back into nature. Most patients that come into Wild Care are injured because of some kind of human interference, so I have learned in depth how much daily human comings and goings affect nature. It is shocking how many turtles are hit by cars, how many birds strike windows, and how many bunnies are attacked by unleashed pets.
I am a very hands-on learner, so I feel like this summer at Wild Care has taught me a semester’s worth of knowledge at university! I have performed a necropsy (autopsy) on a turkey that had been hit by a car to see the extent of the damages as well as to learn about how turkey bodies work. I also have assisted with performing x-rays on injured animals as well as assisted in removing viable eggs from a humanely euthanized painted turtle. These experiences cannot be had in a classroom.
I have family on Cape Cod, and they were generous enough to open their doors to me for the whole summer. I mean, who else other than family would want a nineteen-year-old staying with them all summer long! I love Cape Cod and would adore being able to come back here next summer, but I have a full year of school before then, so it is all up in the air right now. Jennifer Taylor, Wild Care’s Animal Care Coordinator, has been a big influence on why I love working at Wild Care so much. She, as well as the whole staff, really made me feel comfortable and makes the whole place feel like a second family.
My advice about choosing a Summer Internship is to make sure it is something you love to do on Cape Cod! You will be spending the whole summer there, every beautiful beach day, every dawn, and every dusk, so make sure that you are going to enjoy what you do!