For those who like to help wildlife, several training sessions are offered in the area. The Star Journal caught up with Mark Naniot, wildlife expert, to find out more about these sessions.
Star Journal: You are offering two types of training sessions this year. What will these sessions be about?
Mark Naniot: The session coming up this Thursday will be about general volunteer duties we have here at Wild Instincts and the ones in March will be training sessions for those wishing to learn how to rescue and transport wildlife.
SJ: What will participants learn at the session targeted for volunteers?
MN: We have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for people of every ability. We are still in the process of building cages and enclosures, so we could always use help with that during the summer. For instance, right now we are doing a remodel on our intern quarters so painting needs to be done, as well as other jobs connected with a remodel. We also need volunteers to help us with presentations and displays we have at schools, fairs and other events. When we send out our newsletter, we could use help with folding and putting stamps on. During the summer when we are so busy, we could use reception help in answering the phones. We also have jobs for people with artistic talents. We have photo ops when animals are released and we could use some help with displays in our lobby. The jobs are endless.
SJ: Do you need help with fundraising?
MN: Always. While we are federally and state permitted, we get no funding from the state or Feds. Our operation is built on donations and help from our volunteers. We are very thankful for our fundraising committee that helps with several events throughout the year. Those take a lot of organizing so the more people helping, the better. Sometimes we have bake sales and we could always use goodies for those as well as people willing to donate or get raffle prizes for those fund raisers.
SJ: Do volunteers ever help with the animals?
MN: Yes, but obviously those folks have to have a little more training. If someone has the time for that training, they are more than welcome. We can always use people to help us prepare food, clean pens, feed babies, that type of thing. We have plenty of jobs for those that want to have more hands-on experiences with wildlife.
SJ: Is there a great need for trained rescue field volunteers and drivers?
MN: Definitely. Lots of times we get calls for wildlife rescues and transports from around the state. We are one of the few wildlife rehabilitation centers that is licensed to take certain animals, like bears and raptors, so when they are hurt or orphaned we get the call. For instance Amelia, the peregrine falcon that is our education bird, was injured in Madeline Island and transported here by a volunteer.
SJ: What will people learn at these sessions?
MN: We teach people how to make a successful transport. Like no radio playing while the animals is in the car, no smoking while transporting an animal and also how to safely transport an animal in a container. Lots of our rescues are for raptors, so we teach people how to catch them, how to properly hold a bird and that type of thing. Each rescue is different, but we try and cover all the common situations we have run into in the past.
SJ: Do volunteers have to commit a lot of time?
MN: They can work 10, 11, 12 hours a day if they want, but no, we can use volunteers who want to work one hour a week to as many hours as they want.
SJ: Must volunteers be a certain age?
MN: By federal law, volunteers who work directly with the animals have to be at least 16. Younger volunteers can help, but they must have a parent or guardian with them.
SJ: Why do you have these training sessions?
MN: These sessions give people a way to find out if they are interested in helping out wildlife and exposes them to all the jobs we have here. They also give us an idea of how many people we can rely on if the need for rescues, transports or help is needed.
SJ: When will these sessions be held?
MN: We have two coming up this Thursday, Feb. 20. One is at 10:30 a.m. and one is at 6 p.m. They will be held here at Wild Instincts and we are located at 4621 Apperson Dr., which is the road right next to the Newbold Fire Station. There will also be two sessions for rescue and transport drivers. One will be on March 17 at 6:30 p.m. and the other one will be on Sat., March 22, at 10 a.m., also at Wild Instincts. All training sessions last about an hour.
SJ: Where can people reach you if they have questions?
MN: My phone numbers are 715-490-2727 or 715-362-9453.