CROW hires pair with a passion for animals
By MEGHAN McCOY
Two women, who developed a passion for animals at a young age, are fulfilling their dreams at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife as a wildlife rehabilitator and admissions specialist, and veterinarian intern.
Morgan Hester, who hails from Wendell, North Carolina, said the desire of working with animals sparked at a young age. She discovered what capacity she wanted to work with animals after seeing an owl at a job fair while in high school.
“I looked into schools and a career path of rehabilitation and that was it,” Hester said.
She began last May as an intern for CROW after going to school for wildlife biology and conservation wildlife rehab at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. She said a vet at her school, who worked at CROW, shared a great deal of information about the hospital. In addition, an intern recently in the position also went to her school, talking highly of the program.
“I knew about this place and knew it was really good,” Hester said, which resulted in sending her resume and being accepted for the position.
Her experience at CROW this past year as a wildlife care and training intern “was awesome.” Hester had the opportunity to train all of the students that came onboard, teaching them how to work with wildlife.
“I had done that at school as well, but here was a complete step up from what I had ever done,” she said. “It was awesome, I got to learn so much and I’m still learning.”
One of her highlight moments was going on a loggerhead turtle release at South Seas Island Resort. The first one she had ever experienced.
“I really like just watching progression and the animal getting better,” she said adding that she enjoys doing enrichments with the animals, watching the benefits, especially for those staying in the outside enclosures.
The very first animal she had the opportunity to work with in May 2016, is one that has stuck with her. The barn owl, which was with CROW for a very long time, had many deep procedures in an effort to fix the injuries.
Although the owl did not make it, Hester said she had never seen so much attention and intensity put into wildlife in trying to save it.
“That always sticks in my mind because that was the very first animal I worked with here,” Hester said.
She said in the intern position she loved doing rehab, training and answering the phones because she got to help out everywhere.
As an intern, she lived in the student housing, which she enjoyed because if there were any after hour calls, she joined the veterinarian to learn more.
Hester was recently hired on as part of the CROW staff as a wildlife rehabilitator and admissions specialist the last week of June. Her new role affords her the opportunity to work outside with the wildlife administering medication and doing husbandry work.
“Outside is usually where they are about ready to be released, so it is a lot of evaluating them. Also the sea turtles and reptiles are outside usually, so it will be different working with them,” she said.
As the admissions specialist she will answer the phones twice a week, and answer and coordinate rescues and releases.
Her new position will afford her the opportunity to work with reptiles, something she has not done a lot of before now.
“I’m really looking forward to that, especially with the sea turtles,” Hester said.
Robin Bast began her year long journey of being CROW’s newest veterinary intern on Sunday, July 2. The intern became familiar with CROW after spending every summer with her grandmother, who used to live on Sanibel, as a young child.
“I always knew I wanted to be a vet since I was probably like 5 or 6,” Bast said. “I have always loved working with animals. I really like the challenge that veterinarian medicine provides in terms of your patients can’t talk to you and tell you what’s wrong. So, it’s a giant puzzle that you have to figure out. That has always been interesting to me.”
She said, in terms of wildlife medicine, she loves the conservation aspect. Bast said wildlife medicine is even more challenging than domestic animal medicine because often times they do not come with a history of what happened to them.
“It’s emergency work, but you are missing the puzzle pieces in terms of what actually happened to the patient. You have to rely on your physical exam, and things like that to get a really good idea of what’s going on,” she said.
Born and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Bast did her undergraduate studies at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. While finishing college, she did a one-month externship at CROW during a winter vacation.
“I fell in love with wildlife medicine. That was my first experience with it doing rehab here for that month,” Bast said.
Up until that internship, Bast said she enjoyed learning about all the different species during her visits to the Visitor & Education Center every year CROW staff gets to work with.
“Actually getting involved in their daily care and seeing the difference that the people make here when they work with these animals kind of inspired me to learn a little more about how that process worked and get more involved in it,” she said. “You are not just saving individual patients here. Conservation medicine is a one health approach. You are not just caring for an individual patient, but you are also caring for populations of animals and that affects ecosystem health. I think wildlife medicine is in the forefront of that.”
Due to the experience, after graduating from college, Bast did a six-month fellowship at CROW as a rehab student.
“I ended up getting hired on as staff, so I was a rehabber here for almost a year before I got into vet school,” she said.
She attended the University of Florida for four years and graduated last May. Her first year out of college, Bast did a small animal rotating internship at Florida Veterinary Referral Center in Estero, giving her the opportunity to practice internal medicine, surgery and emergency medicine.
With her ultimate goal of working in wildlife medicine, she was excited to land the year long veterinarian internship at CROW.
“I hope to gain a lot more skills specific to working with a lot of these species. When you do a rotating internship you learn a lot of the skills you need to be a really good doctor. When you do a specialized internship like this you learn medicine specific to the species that you are going to be working with,” Bast said.
She said she had already done a couple surgeries within her first couple of days on the job.
“It’s going to be such a great learning experience. We see such a large volume of patients come through the door every year. It’s really such a great place to learn because you see such a large variety,” Bast said.
She’s also looking forward to being creative in helping the wildlife that come to the hospital.
“There’s everything you learn at school, and also in the literature, but you have to be creative and use the tools that you have to see what can work for your patient,” Bast said.
The research aspect is something else she’s interested in contributing to while at CROW. She said they are involved with multiple organizations doing clinical research, which also contributes to the knowledge base of the animals they help.
During her year internship, she hopes to work with otters and owls, her favorite animals.