My name is Meagan Johnson, and I am a junior majoring in Animal and Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State. I will be spending this summer working as an intern at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Throughout this internship, I will have the opportunity to gain experience with Florida’s native wildlife and other exotic animals. As an intern, I will work with the wildlife health staff to rescue and rehabilitate injured or abandoned wildlife. My duties will range from performing initial exams of injured wildlife to working on various community outreach programs. This wide variety of experiences will be extremely beneficial to me as I work towards my goal of becoming a veterinarian. I’m very excited to start this internship, and I can’t wait to see what the next 12 weeks have in store for me!
I spent my first day as an intern at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) Zoological Park. I was taught how to work the primate and hoofstock shifts. Hoofstock represents various livestock, llamas, a wallaby, a muntjac deer, and a few other species. Both shifts consisted of preparing the morning and evening diets of the animals and cleaning the enclosures. The primates will also have some form of enrichment activity each day. I really enjoyed learning how these shifts work, and I can’t wait to start them on my own next week. For the remainder of the week, I worked at the Refuge. This is where rescued animals are brought to be rehabilitated and released. Every day I prepared morning and evening diets for all of the animals at the refuge; it took about 3 hours to prepare both sets of meals. Cleaning cages and enclosures also takes up a large part of the day, along with other various house-keeping duties. I’ve already learned a lot in my first week. On my first day there, I was taught to bottle feed the numerous orphaned raccoons that we have in our nursery. Once I was taught, I was responsible for feeding them throughout the day. I also learned to syringe-feed our many fledglings. On Friday, several of our opossum weanlings had begun to develop Metabolic Bone Disease due to calcium deprivation, so the veterinarian taught us about the disease, and we were instructed how to treat it. Next, I helped build and install new perches in the raven enclosure as part of their enrichment. Lastly, we had to treat a heron that is in critical condition after being entangled in a fishing line; the hook had torn off the skin and some of the tissue on both of his legs, and the line was entangled over his entire body. Hopefully, he will recover soon and we will be able to release him. I really loved learning about and working with all of the animals at the refuge, and I think this will be great experience.