May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

About the Center

The Dan and Dianne May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is situated adjacent to the Elk River on the campus of Lees-McRae. The Center annually admits more than 1,500 injured and orphaned wildlife patients from the western part of North Carolina. Some of these patients are orphans who have lost a parent or left the nest too soon. Others have suffered more severe injuries that require complex medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care. In every case, each patient is evaluated individually and a suitable treatment plan is determined. Regardless of species, staff and students aim to provide outstanding care for every patient that comes through the doors.

Under the guidance of Director Nina Fischesser and veterinarian Dr. Sam Young, students simultaneously contribute to the success of the rehabilitation program while engaging in a one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning experience.  Wildlife Biology and Pre-Veterinary Medicine students comprise a large portion of the rehabilitative operations at the center, which is open 364 days a year. Over the course of their training at Lees-McRae, they learn and then implement all aspects of wildlife rehabilitation, eventually becoming mentors to younger students. Experiential opportunities include phone triage, initial patient assessment, medication calculation and administration, appropriate diet preparation, habitat management, wound care, anesthesia, physical therapy, surgical assistance, and more. At every step, students are an integral part of achieving the center’s goals: to rehabilitate and release wildlife patients in need and educate the public regarding the value of wildlife in our ecosystem.

Study wildlife science this summer on our campus!

The wildlife science summer program at Lees-McRae College is designed to offer a summer academic enrichment program to students who have (1) completed at least their freshmen year of high school and (2) who are currently enrolled in or have completed a high school level biology course. 


The Center began as the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute in 1995 and moved to Lees-McRae College in 2003. Growth in the Wildlife Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation programs precipitated a need for larger facilities, including enhanced lecture space and larger animal care units. Thanks to generous support from the May family, a new facility was opened in July 2012 as the Daniel and Dianne May Wildlife Center Rehabilitation Center.

State and federal rehabilitation and education guidelines and permits govern the rehabilitation of wild animals. The May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and follows rehabilitation standards established by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

Have you found an injured or orphaned animal?

Call us at 828.898.2568 before you attempt to help injured wildlife, please!

Here are some quick tips: 

  • Use caution! Cover the animal using gloves and a towel.
  • Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place.
  • Do not offer food or water as it can cause additional harm.
  • If we are too far for you to drive, call us anyway. We can connect you with a local facility.

If advised to bring the injured animal to the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, ring the doorbell upon your arrival at the center and fill out the patient form. If bringing an animal after hours, please place the patient in the drop-off enclosure and follow the instructions below:

  • Leave the animal in your box or transfer to appropriate size carrier. Turn on heating pad for orphaned babies or if patient is in shock.
  • Cover part of the enclosure to keep patient quiet and dark.
  • Call the center at 828.898.2568 to leave a message that the patient is in the drop-off enclosure.
  • Clip the enclosure closed to protect from predators.
Please note: The address on the map states the Center is located in Beech Mountain. Please disregard that, as the Center is located in Banner Elk (at 367 Mill Pond Road) on the campus of Lees-McRae College.


The ultimate goal for every patient is to release each one back to their wild environment. Excitement builds as the patient improves and the possibility of release approaches. The how, where, and when of that assessment, however, can make for a complicated decision. For example, these questions are considered:

  • Does the patient (like a chimney swift or cedar waxwing) need to be released into a flock? If so, can you find one?
  • Is there a specific diet or habitat that the patient requires? If so, where can that be found?
  • Is the patient active during the day, at dawn and dusk, or at night?
  • At what elevation is the species found?

When all questions are answered, the weather is agreeable, and transportation arranged, the final step in the rehabilitation process can be achieved: releasing an injured or orphaned animal back to the wild, free place from which they came.

The rehabilitative process can take days, weeks, or months. A release is wonderfully fulfilling for students as they see all of their hard work result in such a gratifying and often moving accomplishment.


Wildlife Presentations

Wildlife presentations have concluded this year and will return in Summer 2024. Presentations are held in the Banner Elk amphitheater located in Tate-Evans Parks. Presentations take place every Saturday at 1 p.m. and are open to the public. Our student mentors are primarily responsible for giving wildlife presentations. As part of their education, they help educate public on the needs of local wildlife and the importance of conservation efforts. Stop by the park to support our students and meet our animal ambassadors! 

Support the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

The Friends of Wildlife program enhances and financially supports the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Charitable donations are put to work immediately for the treatment and care of injured wildlife. In addition, your support helps to educate and train students who are committed to being stewards of the natural environment.

Make a gift

Contact Us

Nina Fischesser
Director, May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Dr. Sam Young
Assistant Professor and Veterinarian

Tara Frost
Wildlife Assistant

Linda Hanawalt
Clinical Administrative Assistant

Kelli Johnson
Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist

Learn about our Wildlife Rehabilitation Program