Every summer, the Wildlife Medical Clinic student volunteer base leave campus for their own adventures and learning opportunities. With the summer being our busiest season, we still have plenty of animals to take care of during this period. So, who takes care of all the animals? The WMC student managers and a handful of veterinary student summer interns take on that task! We interviewed this year’s four summer interns about their experiences and the Wildlife Medical Clinic.
Selena Harrison, third-year veterinary student
Why did you apply for the internship at the Wildlife Medical Clinic?
I was a team leader in the clinic this past year and loved helping teach other students about the clinic and about medicine. However, I wanted to take this summer to further my own learning and thought this internship would be my best opportunity.
What is your favorite wildlife species? Continue reading
Each year, we care for more than 100 different species in the Wildlife Medical Clinic, which is one of the most interesting aspects of volunteering there! While we can count on some species to always make an appearance (we’re looking at you, Eastern cottontails), others only make an occasional visit. A phenomenal example of these animals is the otter. YES – we are home to North American river otters in Champaign county. These unique and sleek little guys have so many amazing adaptations that make them simultaneously efficient predators, stealthy swimmers, and adorable fuzz-balls. River otters grow to be about 2 feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds. Their smaller size and aerodynamic design help them to swim easily and quickly through the water. Otters are carnivorous mammals, with most meals consisting of fish, frogs, turtles, or small mammals that they catch in their paws.
Did you know that otters were listed as threatened in the 1970’s? A combination of habitat destruction, pollution, and over-trapping for the fur industry decimated the Illinois otter population. At one point, it was likely that there were fewer than 100 otters left in the entire state. Luckily, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) took initiative and created a recovery plan in the 1990’s in a successful effort to repopulate the state. By 2009, Southern Illinois University estimated that there were ~8,400 otters in Illinois, with projections of a population over 30,000 in the years following! Another aspect that assisted the increase in otter population is the increase in beaver dams. As new laws have been introduced to decrease the pollution in Illinois waterways, the beaver population has increased. Beaver dams make great habitats for otters to live in, so these population growths went hand-in-hand! Due to the amazing efforts to help the otter population, every county in Illinois is once again home to North American river otters. Continue reading
State parks provide a unique opportunity to experience nature and observe local wildlife. You can commit to immersing yourself in the environment for a camping trip or just spend a day hiking. Being able to experience wildlife in their native habitat is a helpful reminder of the importance of conservation efforts. These parks stay clean and healthy through the efforts of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and dedicated community members alike.
We’ve highlighted some state parks and native animals you may find there. If you visit a park on our recommendation, share a photo of on social media and tag the Wildlife Medical Clinic – we would love to take part in your adventure, too!
Bald Eagle – Starved Rock
This park is known for being a home to bald eagles! They flock to this state park during winter months to feast on plentiful fish. They’re not the only wildlife you can look for here. There are miles of trails passing waterfalls, canyons and cliffs. Each of these features creates the ideal habitat for a particular type of animal, so make sure to explore them all!
A species you might spot at any of these parks is white-tailed deer. When fawns are young, like the one in this photo, they hide in tall grass or among foliage to stay safe. They are dappled to resemble sunlight, have no natural scent, and can stay extremely still for hours to avoid predation. To avoid drawing predators to the area, the mother will not approach while you or any natural predators are in the area. Despite this, she is diligent in the care of her young.
White Tailed Deer – Matthiessen
Known for its rock formations, Matthiessen park hosts a variety of ecosystems. White-tailed deer take advantage of the wooded forest’s cover and the nearby prairie’s abundant food sources. For this reason, it was called Deer Park before it became a state park. Deer tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, so if you want to catch a peak it is best to time your explorations accordingly. Continue reading