Troy University’s Environmental Club has partnered with Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary in Enterprise to give students the opportunity to volunteer and intern at the sanctuary.
The Environmental Club hosted a percentage night at Zaxby’s in Troy on Jan. 26 to benefit the Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary.
The club brought pictures of some of the animals that are currently being cared for at the sanctuary, along with pamphlets about the work that the sanctuary is doing.
Nicole Pierce, the general manager of Zaxby’s in Troy, said that the group had a successful night.
“The crew really enjoyed working with them,” Pierce said of her employees.
Terry Morse, one of the directors of the Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary, said that the purpose of Big Bend is “to take in infant and injured wildlife and to care for them until they can be released back into the wild.”
Morse said that the partnership between Big Bend and the Environmental Club has been a good one.
“They have helped us with checking water quality and building enclosures among other things,” Morse said. “It has been a win-win relationship.”
According to Morse, there are an average of four full-time volunteers and 10 to 15 part-time volunteers.
“We have some home-schooled students who come and volunteer as well, but there is always a need for more volunteers,” Morse said.
“It is dirty work, but it’s worth it to see them be released.”
Morse said that the sanctuary initially expected to take in around 150 to 200 animals a year, but that it has far exceeded the expectations.
“It immediately took off,” Morse said. “We took in 200 more animals last year than the year before (2014), and 400 more than the previous year (2013).
“People bring us the animals. We don’t have time to go looking for them because we are treating the animals in our care.”
Morse said that “70 percent come in from dog and cat attacks, vehicles and human cruelty.”
“We are trying to educate the public about these animals and give them the second chance that they deserve,” Morse said.
“We are hoping to start a foster program so that people in the community could help with the babies until they are weaned,” Morse said.
“Last year we had about 600 babies come in during the spring, and there were only two of us feeding them through the night.”
Brittany Taylor, a sophomore biomedical sciences major from Wadley and secretary of the Environment Club, has volunteered and said she enjoyed it.
“I got involved with Big Bend through the Environmental Club here at Troy after going to an informational meeting that several biology clubs hosted together,” Taylor said. “As secretary of the Environmental Club, I would definitely say that Big Bend is one of our primary focuses in the Troy area.”
“My favorite part about volunteering at Big Bend is how rewarding it is,” Taylor said.
“You spend your whole day helping these amazing creatures who can’t help themselves or speak for themselves.
“The best part about Big Bend is that after an animal has been healed, they are released back into their natural environment.”
“Seeing a sick or injured animal go through the rehabilitation process and finally being well enough to be released makes volunteering so worthwhile and amazing,” Taylor said. “John and Terry really do a terrific job helping the animals at Big Bend regain their health.”
Taylor said that although she has not had time so far this semester to volunteer, she plans to make time soon to return.
Kristin Goebel, a junior biomedical sciences major from Ocala, Florida, and the vice president of the Environmental Club, is currently interning at Big Bend with two other interns.
“The connection between Environmental Club and Big Bend started a couple of years ago,” Goebel said. “This is Big Bend’s fourth year.”
“My favorite part is getting people into situations where they can gain experience in the field that they are pursuing,” Goebel said. “They can do things that they are passionate about and become more informed.”
According to Goebel, the Environmental Club has three to 10 regular volunteers each week.
“Big Bend had close to 6,000 volunteer hours put in last year,” Goebel said.
“We have helped with service projects like building pens and things.”
Goebel said that the Environmental Club and Big Bend are “closely knit.”
“We need more help, especially during the week when it’s harder for people to get out there,” Goebel said.
According to Goebel, the sanctuary has one orientation day each month where people who are interested in volunteering can come out to the sanctuary, take a tour and learn about volunteering.
“It is super rewarding to release the animals,” Goebel said. “I’ve released snapping turtles and hawks. It is so rewarding.”
According to Goebel, Big Bend has a higher success rate rehabilitating its animals than most other sanctuaries.
“Our success rate is about 75 percent,” Goebel said. “The directors refuse to euthanize unless absolutely necessary.
“We take in a lot of nonconventional releasable animals that most sanctuaries would not give time to heal.”
Goebel used the example of an armadillo to illustrate her statement.
“When an armadillo breaks its leg, it can take four to six months to heal,” Goebel said. “But it will heal completely and can be released.
“Most sanctuaries will euthanize animals that will take too much time or money to heal.”
Goebel said that the sanctuary also takes in many animals from surrounding states.
“We are the only wildlife refuge east of Mississippi that can legally take in animals that could become rabid, such as raccoons,” Goebel said. “So we get a lot of animals brought in from other sanctuaries that can’t legally care for them.”
Goebel said that it is “all hands on deck” during the spring when they get a large number of babies brought in, ranging from 500 to 800.
According to Goebel, the Environmental Club has two more fundraisers planned to benefit the Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary.
The club will host a percentage night at Milky Moo’s in Enterprise on March 12 and a cookie sale for Chick-fil-A in May.