When a wild animal is injured, its options are limited. Some of the luckier ones are scooped up by a human and brought to the University of Georgia Wildlife Clinic.
Here, in a small arrangement of rooms adjacent to the main UGA Veterinary Clinic, faculty, residents and students tend to turtles, birds, snakes and more. While care for these animals typically is less expensive than house pets, it’s not free—and the budget for the clinic is razor thin.
Which is why members of the Pre-Vet Club at the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources decided to step up to help.
“We’re fortunately able to treat wildlife to a pretty advanced capability, and the only limitations are generally funds,” says Corinna Hazelrig, president of the Warnell Pre-Vet Club and a fourth-year pre-veterinary sciences major. Club members made digital “cards” with dollar amounts in a grid pattern and posted them to social media. “Followers donated via Venmo, and in total we raised $1,711.66. One person raised over $270.”
For a virtual, week-long fundraiser among 15-20 students, says Hazelrig, it was remarkable. It’s also going to make a big difference for the clinic, since treatment costs start relatively low to begin with.
“We’ll be able to treat at least a few extensive cases, if not a lot of small, minor ones—for example, if a bird needs heat or oxygen,” adds Hazelrig. She recalls a case earlier this year where she treated a bullfrog’s intestinal injury by grafting a part of a pig’s intestine onto it. The cost of the procedure was $500.
Hazelrig and other students are also gaining valuable medical experience through the clinic. Procedures such as blood transfusions or sutures are done by students under the guidance of residents and faculty. And if an animal does not survive and must be euthanized (unfortunately, many animals are brought in too late to be treated), it continues to serve a purpose in labs for additional teaching.
Warnell pre-vet students spend one month on call at the UGA Wildlife Clinic, but often hang around after their stint to check on cases and see what’s new. For Hazelrig, who is interested in zoological medicine, it’s been an opportunity to learn how to give fluids to an animal, feed them, restrain them or even operate on them.
The Warnell Pre-Vet Club is still fairly new to campus—it was founded about three years ago—but Hazelrig says it offers opportunities for students with interests beyond veterinary sciences. For club members, the experience is what you put into it. But regular speakers and the camaraderie among the club members—even during a time of virtual fundraisers—shows a connection that extends beyond a shared love of animals.
“I think Warnell students think it’s only for pre-vet people, but the club is a great resource for anyone interested in one health and wildlife diseases, because a lot of our speakers are disease professionals,” she adds. “A lot of the members of the club are interested in conservation medicine, and a lot of them won’t go into private practice. So, the clinic gives them the opportunity to get experience and provides a really unique opportunity for students who are interested in those aspects that deal with wildlife.”
All photos, except the photo of the common snapping turtle and kingsnake, were taken by me. The photos of the common snapping turtle with the broken shell and the kingsnake were taken by Dr. Greg Walth (Zoological Medicine Resident). The board used for the fundraiser was designed by Ashlyn Halseth (Community Service Chair for the Warnell Pre-Vet Club). Please let me know if you need anything else.