Wildlife Medicine: New Horizons

July 25–28, 2024
Hosted by the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Lees-McRae College Campus

Wildlife medicine is a continuously growing field of veterinary medicine that impacts both our local communities and global human and ecological health systems. This year our symposium aims to present topics that span the breadth of this impact from the latest clinical wildlife medicine techniques to research and conservation efforts both local and abroad, encompassing a wide array of species. Speakers are seasoned experts in the fields of avian, exotic, zoological, aquatic, preventative health, and wildlife medicine. Twenty (20.0) hours of continuing education are provided for veterinarians and veterinary technicians, including the required annual 2 hours of diversion control. Wildlife rehabilitators, students, and others interested in the above-mentioned fields are all welcome and encouraged to attend.

The North Carolina Wildlife Medicine Symposium is now a three-day conference! Earn 20 hours of continuing education in beautiful Banner Elk, North Carolina!


  • Veterinarians (full conference): $350
  • Veterinarians (one day): $150
  • Current students, veterinary technicians, and wildlife rehabilitators (full conference): $125
  • Current students, veterinary technicians, and wildlife rehabilitators (one day): $75

The cost covers a light breakfast and full lunch each day of attendance as well as an evening social on Friday, July 26. Those who purchase a one-day pass can choose to attend Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. See the schedule below for session information. 


A limited number of rooms at the Best Western Mountain Lodge will be set aside at a discounted rate for attendees from Wednesday, July 24 through Monday, July 29. The area also has many short-term rentals and other lodging options within minutes of campus. 

Lodging options

Symposium Schedule


Check In
8–8:50 a.m.

Managing Large Whale Stranding and Euthanasia with Dr. Craig Harms
9–9:50 a.m.

Response to a live or dead stranded whale requires attention to human safety, animal welfare, communications, regulatory compliance, large scale logistics, and environmental concerns. When a whale is terminally stranded and refloating is not acceptable, euthanasia is an ethical choice to end what may otherwise be days of suffering slow cardiovascular collapse from gravitational effects prior to death.

Session 2
10–10:50 a.m.

Practicing Wildlife Medicine in The Holy Land (or Between Tectonic Plates) with Dr. David Eshar
11–11:50 a.m.

The Wildlife Hospital of Israel (WHIL) sees about 6,000 cases of injured or orphaned native wildlife annually, ranging from swifts to Griffon vultures, hedgehogs to hyenas or chameleons to vipers. With nearly 20 years of practicing wildlife medicine and conservation, this talk will share some of our experience working with these native species.

Noon–1 p.m.

Snow Leopard Field Research and Conservation in Kyrgyzstan with Dr. Tim Georoff
1–1:50 p.m.

Talk will discuss aspects of large cat field biology, research, and conservation with a focus on snow leopards in Central Asia. We will discuss techniques used to monitor and track cats and how veterinarians can play an important role in wildlife conservation.

Emaciation Management in Wildlife Rehabilitation with Dr. Allison Carter
2–2:50 p.m.

Emaciation is commonly seen in animals presenting for wildlife rehabilitation for a variety of reasons. In this talk we will discuss the effect of starvation on body systems and how to use this knowledge to inform evaluation and treatment of the emaciated patient. We will discuss refeeding syndrome and how to create a refeeding plan.

Poking the Bear: Experiences with Anesthetizing Black Bears in the Wild and Under Human Care with Dr. Tara Harrison
3–3:50 p.m.

Black bears are becoming increasingly more common, which increases the potential that a bear will become injured and require anesthesia. This lecture will discuss preparation, anesthesia, and procedures involving black bears in the wild as well as in animals under human care.


Clinical Field Trial at Carolina Raptor Center for Use of Commercial Avian Influenza Vaccine in Endangered California Condors with Dr. Tracey Ritzman
9–9:50 a.m.

The Carolina Raptor Center is proud to partner with private, state, and federal organizations to host an emergency vaccine trial to help protect critically endangered California Condors from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). A clinical field trial was held at CRC to test the safety and efficacy of a commercial avian influenza vaccine in black vultures with the goal if utilizing the vaccine in the endangered California Condor populations.

Medical Management of Wildlife Ectotherm Species at the Museum's Window on Animal Health with Dr. Daniel Dombrowski
10–11:50 a.m.

Museums are not just for taxidermy and preserved specimens. The NC Museum of Natural Sciences maintains a large collection of live animals including many wildlife species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. In addition to assuring the health and welfare of these ambassadors and exhibit animals, the Museum’s Veterinary Sciences team also provides medical care and support for wildlife species in research, conservation projects, and rehabilitation. From salamanders to sea turtles, Museum guests can interact with veterinary staff and students as we provide medical care for many wildlife species. This presentation will introduce the Museum’s Veterinary Sciences program and provide an overview of medical management for wildlife species with a review of specific wildlife clinical cases.

Noon–1 p.m.

Triage and Management of Incidentally Hooked Sea Turtles Following Recreational Fishery Interactions with Dr. Alissa Mones
1–1:50 p.m.

Unintentional capture during recreational fishing is a significant threat to sea turtles. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s Stranding Response Team frequently responds to sea turtles that incidentally ingest or become entangled in fishing gear during the busy summer recreational fishing season. Virginia Aquarium partners with fishing piers throughout the community through the Virginia Aquarium Pier Partner Program to educate local anglers and minimize harm to turtles during fishing gear interaction. This presentation will discuss the medical and surgical management of aquatic turtles following interactions with recreational fishing gear, from initial triage to release.

Is Chronic Wasting Disease the Deer-pocalypse? with Dr. Elyse Murphy
2–2:50 p.m.

In 1977, Chronic Wasting Disease was recognized as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy ten years after the first documented case. Originally discovered in captive wildlife, this disease is now widespread in free-ranging wildlife in 34 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces.

Wildcat Lake Activities
3–5 p.m.

Evening Social 
5–9 p.m.


Elephant Conservation in Côte d'Ivoire with Dr. Jb Minter
9–9:50 a.m.

For the past twenty years, the North Carolina Zoo has been working in Central and West Africa to better understand the movement patterns and habitat requirements of forest elephants. By attaching GPS satellite collars to elephants, we are able to monitor their movement patterns in real time and share this data with in-county rangers and land managers. They, in turn, use the data to anticipate where elephants are at risk of encountering poachers and also alert them when the herds are heading towards human settlements, thereby reducing the risk of human-elephant conflict.

The Veterinary Technician's Role in Wildlife Rehabilitation with Halley Buckanoff
10–10:50 a.m.

From home rehabber to wildlife clinic, a veterinary technician can play a vital role in wildlife medicine. In this presentation we'll discuss how wildlife veterinarians and rehabbers can benefit from a veterinary technician in their care team.

Triage and Emergency Care of the Avian Patient with Dr. Megan Cabot
11–11:50 a.m.

Emergency care of the avian patient requires an understanding of their specialized anatomy and physiology. Foundational knowledge and recently published literature will be discussed in the context of triaging an emergent bird, options for initial supportive care, and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Noon–1 p.m.

Health Assessments in Free-Ranging Shark Populations with Dr. Emily Christiansen
1–1:50 p.m.

Many free-ranging wildlife research projects that initially focus on ecology and tracking questions also provide invaluable opportunities for health investigations and biological information-gathering. This presentation will cover some different elasmobranch research projects and the ways in which veterinarians have been able to support both optimizing the animal welfare, as well as the baseline health and biology questions that can be answered.

Diversion Control with Stevie Ikner
2–3:50 p.m.


Medical Management of the Assurance Population of the Critically Endangered Red Wolf (Canis rufus) with Dr. Megan Cabot
9–9:50 a.m.

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is a critically endangered species of canid, native to the southeastern United States, and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoo and Aquariums’ SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program. The North Carolina Zoo has housed and cared for a breeding population of this species for almost 30 years including animals moving out of or back into the wild on the recommendation of the conservation program. In this presentation we will review and discuss common medical concerns in this assurance population of red wolves.

Neoplasia in Raptors with Dr. Tracey Ritzman
10–10:50 a.m.

This presentation will provide an overview of the most common types of neoplasia seen clinically in birds of prey at the Carolina Raptor Center. Presenting signs, diagnostic testing, and treatment options will be discussed.

In Vein, Not in Vain—Transfusion Medicine for the Critical Wildlife Patient with Dr. Miranda Torkelson
11–11:50 a.m.

This talk will provide an overview of wildlife hematology, clinical indications for the use of blood products, and guidelines for administration in common species. We will discuss the risks and benefits of these procedures, as well as the ethics of providing this level of care in wildlife rehabilitation.



Halley Buckanoff, CVT, CWR
Supervisor, Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Center, North Carolina Zoo

Halley Buckanoff is the Wildlife Center Supervisor at North Carolina Zoo’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center overseeing rehabilitation practices, center operations, and mentoring of Volunteers and Interns. Halley is a Certified Veterinary Technician and Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator with 20+ years of emergency, exotic, zoo and wildlife medicine and husbandry experience. She is also a contract instructor for International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and teaches the fundamentals of wildlife rehab around the world.


Megan Cabot, DVM, DACZM
Associate Veterinarian at North Carolina Zoo

Dr. Megan Cabot is an associate veterinarian at the North Carolina Zoo and a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine. She graduated from Kansas State, College of Veterinary Medicine; completed formal training in wildlife medicine at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) in Sanibel, Florida; and completed a residency in zoological medicine through NC State University and the North Carolina Zoo and Aquariums.



Allison Carter, DVM
Medical Director, Nebraska Wildlife Rehab

Dr. Allison Carter attended Kansas State University for veterinary school before completing a small animal rotating internship at Seattle Veterinary Specialists. She then began working in wildlife rehabilitation medicine at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota where she eventually became a senior veterinarian and veterinary intern supervisor. She is currently the medical director at Nebraska Wildlife Rehab where she provides medical care for thousands of native animals from across the state.


Emily Christiansen, MPH, DVM, DACZM
Chief Veterinarian, North Carolina Aquariums

Emily Christiansen is the Chief Veterinarian for the North Carolina Aquariums, and a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine. She graduated from veterinary school at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and completed internships in small animal medicine and wildlife medicine (also at Tufts), before a zoological medicine residency at North Carolina State University. In addition to clinical medicine of all sorts of critters at the NC Aquariums, she is fortunate to have regular opportunities to work with wildlife, including sea turtle rehabilitation and research on free-ranging shark populations.


Daniel S. Dombrowski, MS, DVM
Chief Veterinarian, North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

Dr. Daniel Dombrowski is the Chief Veterinarian and Director of Veterinary Sciences at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. He is an adjunct faculty at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2006, he earned a DVM from NCSU with a focus in zoological, wildlife, and invertebrate medicine. Dr. Dombrowski earned an M.S. in Biology and B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond Virginia. He has been an author and coauthor of several publications and book chapters on topics associated with pharmacology, natural history, and clinical medicine. Dr. Dombrowski currently leads the Veterinary Sciences team at the Museum in animal health, welfare, veterinary education, and veterinary clinical research.


Director of Animal Health and Executive Director of the Wildlife Hospital of Israel (WHIL)

Dr. David Eshar was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. He graduated from the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University, Israel, in 2003, and then worked for 3 years in private practice. Following his dream to become an Exotic Animal/ Zoological Medicine specialist, Dr. Eshar did an Exotic Animal Medicine internship at Tufts University, MA, USA, followed by a Special Species Medicine residency at UPenn, PA, USA. After two years as Chief of the Avian and Exotics Service at The University of Guelph, ON, Canada, he moved to take a faculty position (Assistant and later tenured Associate Professor) at Kansas State University, KS, USA. In the summer of 2022, Eshar moved back to Israel to assume his current role as the Director of Animal Health and Executive Director of the Wildlife Hospital of Israel (WHIL) at the Safari Zoological Center of Ramat Gan. In 2022, Eshar had also completed his MBA degree at the Kansas State University. Eshar is a triple-boarded certified specialist by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the European College of Zoological Medicine and The Israeli Veterinary Services and Animal Health Authority and has been a main author on over 140 scientific publications. Eshar is also a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC).


Tim Georoff, DVM, DACZM
Associate Veterinarian, North Carolina Zoo

Dr. Tim Georoff has worked as a North Carolina Zoo Associate Veterinarian since 2021. Previous positions as zoo veterinarian at Philadelphia Zoo and Roger Williams Park Zoo. Residency through Cornell and Wildlife Conservation Society. Vet Advisor for Snow Leopard SSP and Ring-Tailed Lemur SSP. Consultant for Veterinary Information Network.


Craig Harms, PhD, DVM, DACZM, DECZM (Zoological Medicine)
Director of Marine Health Program, CMAST
Professor of Clinical Sciences, NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Craig Harms is a 1989 graduate of Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. He worked 2 years in private practice, 1 year of internship, 3 years of residency, 4 years of doctoral studies, and then landed a faculty position with NC State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, where he has been engaged in teaching, research and clinical practice in aquatic animal medicine for 24 years.


Associate Professor of Zoo and Exotic Animal Medicine at NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Tara Harrison is an Associate Professor of Zoo and Exotic Animal Medicine at NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. She is also a faculty advisor of the Carnivore Conservation Crew, a program that is working with the red wolf SAFE program and teaches students conservation medicine and animal husbandry.

Stevie Ikner
Supervisory Diversion Investigator, DEA

Mr. Stevie Ikner is a 26-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mr. Ikner is currently assigned to the DEA Atlanta Division’s Greensboro Resident Office located in Greensboro, North Carolina. As the Group Supervisor, Mr. Ikner is responsible for day-to-day Diversion operations for the central and western jurisdictions of North Carolina. Mr. Ikner began his career in 1998 in the Riverside Resident Office in Riverside, California. Mr. Ikner was previously assigned to the DEA Headquarters Diversion Control Division in Arlington, Virginia as a Lead Staff Coordinator in the Office of Diversion Control Regulatory, Regulatory Section from 2020-2024. While in HQ, Mr. Ikner had the distinct opportunity to serve a detail in the Import/Export Section as a Lead Staff Coordinator where he monitored all imports and exports of controlled substances and listed chemicals under the Diversion Control Program throughout the United States.

Mr. Ikner was previously assigned to the DEA Office of Training, in Quantico, Virginia from 2019–2020, as an Instructor and Course Developer. Prior to that, Mr. Ikner was assigned to the Miami Division Office from 2016–2019; the Washington Division Office from 2002–2016; and the Houston Division Office from 1999–2002.

Mr. Ikner served as the case agent on numerous Diversion cases resulting in criminal convictions, regulatory actions and civil penalties from violations of the Controlled Substances Act.


Jb Minter, MS, DVM, DACZM
Director of Animal Health, North Carolina Zoo

Dr. Jb Minter is the Director of Animal Health and Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina Zoo, where he serves on the Zoo’s senior leadership team and oversees the Zoo’s veterinary operations. Dr. Minter is a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine as a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).  He has a special interest in anesthesia, amphibian nutrition, reproductive physiology, and the conservation and management of forest elephants in western Africa where he serves as a coordinator for an established field project monitoring the movement patterns of forest elephants in Cote d’Ivoire.


Alissa Mones, DVM, DACZM
Associate Veterinarian, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Dr. Alissa Mones is the Associate Veterinarian at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine. Following graduation from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, she completed a small animal internship at the University of Tennessee, a specialty internship in zoo and wildlife medicine at Cornell University, and a residency in zoological medicine through North Carolina State University. Her primary interests include aquatic invertebrate welfare, sea turtle medicine and rehabilitation, and marine mammal stranding response.


Elyse Murphy, MPH, DVM, ACVPM
Director, Webbing the Wild
Associate Veterinarian, PAWS Clinic

Dr. Elyse Murphy is the Veterinarian and Founder of Webbing the Wild, LLC. She provides customized One Health preventative solutions; assimilating evidence-based medicine and current trends in infectious disease into actionable management plans for wildlife and zoological institutions. She strives to reliably work alongside, educate, and provide resources for biosecurity assessments, disease surveillance, and vector exclusion.


Karra Pierce, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services, The Wildlife Center of Virginia


Tracey Ritzman, DVM Dipl. ABVP-Avian & Exotic Companion Mammals
Veterinarian at Carolina Raptor Center

Dr. Tracey Ritzman is a 1995 graduate of the North Carolina State Univ. College of Veterinary Medicine. She is dual board-certified through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Avian and Exotic Companion Mammals. She is veterinarian for the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, North Carolina and is also in small animal/exotics clinical practice in the same area. Her interests include raptor medicine and surgery, avian nutrition, exotic pet medicine and surgery.


Miranda Torkelson, DVM, CertAqV
Veterinarian, May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology, Lees-McRae College

Dr. Miranda Torkelson is a veterinarian at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology at Lees-McRae College. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, and pursued specialty training through the Partners for Wildlife veterinary internship at The Raptor Center and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.


Rebecca Nanney, DVM
Veterinary Medical Officer, USDA APHIS Animal Care



About the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

The Dan and Dianne May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is situated adjacent to the Elk River on the campus of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC. The Center annually admits more than 1,500 injured and orphaned wildlife patients from the western part of North Carolina. 

Under the guidance of Director Nina Fischesser and veterinarian Dr. Amber McNamara, students simultaneously contribute to the success of the rehabilitation program while engaging in a one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning experience.  Open 365 days per year, students comprise a large portion of the rehabilitative operations at the Center. 

Spend the Weekend
in Banner Elk

Banner Elk is a popular getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the North Carolina High Country. It’s a place that blends small town relaxation with the amenities of a larger city.

Visitors enjoy a richness of culture and adventure. Within 15 minutes of the town’s lone stoplight you can experience the great outdoors, fabulous dining, theater and the arts, family attractions, and the two largest winter sports venues in the South. (via bannerelk.com)

For More Information

Sam Young, DVM
Veterinarian, May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology
youngs@lmc.edu  |  828.898.3434

This program has been approved for 20.0 hours of continuing education credit in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval. Please contact the AAVSB RACE program if you have any comments/concerns regarding this program’s validity or relevancy to the veterinary profession.