Life saver: The Wildlife Center of Virginia provides real-world education

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File photo. File photo.

Dahlia Lithwick didn’t hold out much hope for the injured baby bird her family found last spring.

“We put it in a box and were feeding it worms from our compost heap, trying to keep him alive as best we could,” she said. After a lengthy Facebook back-and-forth, it was decided that “Chirpy’s” best chance for survival entailed a trip to Waynesboro’s Wildlife Center of Virginia, where, said Amanda Nicholson, the center’s director of outreach, any kind of injured native wildlife critter is welcome.

“We treat a variety of wild animals here—hawks, owls, eagles, squirrels, opossums, turtles, snakes,” she said, but cautioned that if you find a large injured animal, such as a bear or bobcat, call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

As Lithwick discovered, when a “patient” is admitted to the center, it’s taken to a dark, quiet waiting room and given time to calm down. When the animal’s stress level is in check, one of the center’s veterinarians examines it.

Since its founding in 1982, the Wildlife Center has treated more than 65,000 wild animals, and the lessons learned from those cases have been shared with about 1.5 million children and adults through open houses and Critter Cams (wildlifecenter.org/critter-corner/critter-cam-landing). “On any given day, you may see a bear, eagle, owl, hawk or falcon,” she said. Questions about Critter Cam animals are answered in regular moderated discussions, and teachers can schedule interactive classroom Q&A sessions. The Wildlife Center also hosts off- and on-site educational programs.

According to Lithwick, her 11-year-old son left the center feeling heroic. He’d saved Chirpy’s life.

“It was such an educational thing for him to know that he had agency in the world, that there are things you can do, and if you ask for help, somebody who knows what to do will help you,” she said.

For more information about the Center, visit wildlifecenter.org.