According to its 2021 annual report, the Boyce-based Blue Ridge Wildlife Center broke several records last year and generally experienced, statistically speaking, one of its busiest years in recent memory. Executive Director Annie Bradfield reported treating a record 3,331 birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians during the 12-month period, a 16% increase over the previous year that included a variety of animals the center staff was seeing for the first time.
Bradfield announced an increase in staff to meet the challenge while the board of directors elected a new chair, Russ McKelway, succeeding Beatrice von Gontard who stayed on as a member of the 10-person board.
The patient breakdown, tended to by Jennifer Riley, DVM, director of veterinary services, included 1,505 birds (45%); 1,491 mammals (almost 50%); 305 (9%) reptiles; and 31 amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders) (1%). Some 933 songbirds dominated the injury list of birds followed by 331 doves, water and game birds, and 241 raptors. Turtles – 247 of them – dominated the list of reptiles along with 52 snakes and five skinks. Injured mammals included 515 Eastern Cottontails; 294 Virginia Opossums, 260 Eastern Grey Squirrels; and a mix of 422 foxes, bats and racoons. Among 15 counties served, Warren County sent 316 injured animals of all types to the hospital; nearby Clarke followed with 255; Shenandoah 191; Frederick with 697.
A longtime ambassador for BRWC, Rufio the squirrel, was there throughout to greet many of the patients. Rufio came to the center as a baby and celebrates his 7th birthday at the center on March 19. An open invitation has been issued to this family-friendly event, which includes an educational program about squirrels, as well as games, crafts, and – cupcakes!
Returning to the fact-filled annual report, many of the injury cases are blamed on “suspected hit by car” and “suspected cat attack” and trauma of unknown cause – while injuries caused by domestic animals to their wild brethren were split cats (70%) and dogs (30%) – but remember, survival instincts of the wild aren’t easily left behind.
Reflecting on some of her “most” rewarding cases of 2021, Dr. Riley first mentioned treating a Red-tailed Hawk, admitted last November with large, maggot-filled wounds over its back. Paying tribute to members of her team, Riley described herself “as a veterinarian with the benefit of amazingly skilled rehabilitation and veterinary technician co-workers.”
That team, headed by Executive Director Bradfield, lines up as follows: Bradfield and Riley; Jessica Anderson, rehab program manager; Jennifer Burghoffer, education manager; Carly Corbin, office manager; Cara Masullo, LVT; and Ashlee Lyons, front desk coordinator.
The newly elected board follows: McKelway, chair; Susan Galbraith, longtime secretary moved up to vice chair; Mark Merrill, treasurer; Cathy Kuehner, secretary; and board members Patricia Carter, Andy Ferrari, Heather Shank-Givens, Beatrice von Gontard, Joshua Kincaid, and J. Carter Wiley.
While BRWC is listed as a 501(c)3 organization caring for native wildlife by integrating veterinary medicine, rehabilitation, education and research it receives no government support, relying exclusively on private donations, and some 53 volunteers who contributed 3,730 hours last year, led by Kristi Titus with 619 of those hours. Another 29 interns contributed 4,512 hours. The intern with the most hours – 464 – was Kenna Frierson.