On Tuesday, August 19, Lees-McRae College hosted the Friends of Wildlife Kickoff at Elk River Club sponsored by longtime wildlife supporters, Bill and Shelly Mencarelli. This new program enhances and financially supports the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Lees-McRae.
The crowd of more than 50 wildlife enthusiasts enjoyed a buffet breakfast and presentations by Dr. Amber McNamara, veterinarian at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and Nina Fischesser, director of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae. Kirsten English, a student in the Wildlife Biology program, helped Fischesser introduce several animals to the crowd including a Virginia Opossum, a pair of Northern Saw-whet Owls and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. As a special treat, the program ended with the release of a Red-tailed Hawk who was rehabilitated at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
“Our wildlife [biology and rehabilitation] program is a shining star at Lees-McRae College,” said Barry M. Buxton, president of Lees-McRae College. “It is a center of excellence because of Dr. McNamara, Professor Fischesser and our bright, young students. I am so proud of Professor Fischesser and Dr. McNamara’s passion, hard work and leadership.”
The Friends of Wildlife program offers several levels of support and all charitable donations are put to work immediately for the treatment and care of injured wildlife. In addition, this support helps to educate and train students who are committed to being stewards of the natural environment.
Members of the Friends of Wildlife also receive benefits such as invitations to member-only dinners and presentations by May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center professionals and students, invitations to special releases of rehabilitated animals and the opportunity to participate in special educational programs, including lectures and classes.
“When you rehabilitate more than 1,000 animals annually, you can imagine the needs at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center,” said Caroline Hart, vice president of advancement, “so we’ve created this program to give you the opportunity to become a Friend of Wildlife and support the ongoing needs of the Center.”
In addition to kicking off the Friends of Wildlife, Lees-McRae has recently broken ground on a new classroom addition to the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to accommodate the increasing number of Wildlife Rehabilitation students. This project was made possible by lead donations from Ann and John Tickle and Dianne and the late Dan May, in addition to many other generous donations.
During her presentation, Dr. McNamara explained what a typical day looks like at the Center, shared stories of previous and current patients, and even quizzed the group on animal identifications. “As of this month we have already admitted 1160 patients,” said Dr. McNamara. “For comparison, last year we admitted 1350 patients. I think it’s safe to say we will surpass that this year!”
With her expertise, Dr. McNamara has created a new energy at the Center and can now allow wildlife rehabilitation students to complete clinical hours at the Center when they previously had to go out into the community to work with a veterinarian. Dr. McNamara teaches Wildlife Rehabilitation students the latest medical advances and also how to blend Eastern and Western medical philosophies and practices, including veterinary acupuncture. “I love to involve different modalities in patient care so we can find what works best for that particular animal,” said Dr. McNamara.
Before beginning the presentation of animals with Lees-McRae student Kirsten English, Fischesser shared excerpts from short essays written by Wildlife Rehabilitation students. Fischesser said, “This is from a student named Alex who participated in our summer clinical program: ‘I will always remember this summer as the best summer of my life. It was also the summer that I really learned to step up to the plate, take risks and be confident in who I am and what I can do.’”
For more information about the Friends of Wildlife program, please contact the Office of Advancement at 828.898.8777. For more information about the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Lees-McRae, visit lmc.edu/brwi or call 828.898.5241.
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