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

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 ( “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

Posted In:     Magazines,Village

Previous Post

Exploring the great outdoors: A guide to survival for snowy winter days

Next Post

Losing your parenting ego: Keeping the kids’ needs in mind

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of