2019 Conference Synopsis


Patricia Thompson discussing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Meg Lunnum discussing White-Nose Syndrome (WNS).

Day One: Presentations and networking

On October 19th and 20th, 60 wildlife professionals from Washington, Oregon, California, Minnesota, and even Massachusetts, met at The Mountaineers Program Center in Tacoma, WA for the Washington Wildlife Rehabilitation Association (WWRA) 2019 Annual Conference.

 Looking forward to an exciting agenda full of 15 speakers, dozens of door prize drawings, and delicious lunches from Marlene’s Market & Deli, we kicked off the first day with a welcome presentation and Annual Membership Meeting from Jenny Schlieps, WWRA Board President. Next was an informative presentation from Patricia Thompson (WA Department of Fish and Wildlife), with updates on wildlife rehabilitation statistics, WAC revisions, and WA state wildlife rehabilitation rules.

Gail Buhl (The Raptor Center) taught us how to recognize the behavioral differences between eustress, stress, and distress and set up our patients for the best recovery possible, using small owls as an example. It’s amazing how similar the behaviors of our wildlife patients are to our own!

 Makenna Johansen (Whatcom Humane Society) addressed common issues in neonatal mammal care and how to combat initial and critical care. All eyes and ears were on her suggestions for improving efficiency! 

Jenny Schlieps (Focus Wildlife, WWRA Board of Directors) discussed reframing professionalism in wildlife rehabilitation; i.e., changing the culture and perception of wildlife rehabilitation from a ‘labor of love’ into a funded profession. Many people appreciated being able to ask their personal questions and have this difficult conversation in such a supportive environment.

Kai Williams (IWRC) suggested best practices to portray animals in care as the wildlife they are through words and images. It became very clear that seemingly minor details can go a long way!

Corrie Hines (Gray’s Harbor Vet Clinic, Twin Harbors Wildlife Center) offered her unique perspective on the important relationship between veterinarians and rehabilitators. We also shared in Corrie’s excitement of having recently co-founded her very own wildlife center!

Lauren Caruso (Edmonds Community College, WWRA Board of Directors) provided us with a framework for how to use the principles of Adult Learning Theory to tailor training programs to take advantage of the qualities adult learners have. She taught us that adult learning is hard… but it doesn’t have to be!

Meg Lunnum (Happy Valley Bats) provided us with an overview of best practices for bat rehabilitation, including stabilization, flight conditioning, and release vs. education criteria. Her discussion on White-Nose Syndrome and rabies was especially informative!

 Alysha Evans (Whatcom Humane Society, WWRA Board of Directors) addressed euthanasia - knowing when and how to perform it and what we can do to keep our spirits high during the process. She reminded us that the ability to relieve pain and suffering truly is a gift.

After an informative and exciting first day of the conference, attendees wished each other well and grabbed one more leftover sandwich on their way out the door. Board members tidied up quickly and, with much restraint, refrained from kidnapping the highly coveted gull stuffed animal door prize (whose new owner was yet to be found…).

Day Two: Workshops, presentations, and roundtable

Day two commenced again bright and early with attendees refreshed and ready to go for another round of learning!

Lauren Glickman (Foray Consulting) traveled all the way from Boston, MA to present a 3-hour workshop on the nature of difficult conversations and how to approach them in a way that increases the likelihood your message will be delivered well. Through a series of thought-provoking exercises, we gained awareness of our own tendencies and shared our strategies for success!

Nicki Rosenhagen (PAWS Wildlife Center) educated us on when and how to select antibiotics for use in wildlife patients before they can be seen by a veterinarian. Remember, Baytril doesn’t battle all bugs, so use it and other antibiotics judiciously!

Jennifer Convy (PAWS Wildlife Center) gave us some helpful ideas for designing outdoor housing for optimal wildlife care and which elements to consider before taking that step. There sure is a lot more that goes into these enclosures than meets the eye!

Kit Lacy (Cascades Raptor Center) shared some inspirational success stories on renesting raptors and additionally, how to build a community network that will provide the tools that are needed for these predators to succeed into adulthood. Among many things, we learned that everyone needs to befriend an arborist!

Marie Travers and January Bill (Bird Ally X) held a 3-hour interactive workshop on stress—specifically, the mechanics and effects of stress in both human and non-human animals—and how it can impact an animal’s chance of survival. We learned how to identify and reduce stress both in ourselves and in our wildlife patients.

The conference concluded with a roundtable discussion titled “Ask an Expert: Common Problems and Solutions,” followed by a final set of door prize drawings (Lauren G. won the gull!), and an entertaining recap from Jenny.

A day in life of a wildlife rehabilitator, on paper!

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen discusses antibiotic use in wildlife.

Thank you to our conference attendees and members!

The WWRA Annual Conference was a success, thanks to YOU—our members, coworkers, friends, and community members! Our shared love for wildlife and passion for making THEIR world a better place inspires an ongoing exchange of knowledge and a desire to form meaningful, lifelong bonds with one another.

 If you are not currently a member of WWRA, we hope that you will consider joining our network of wildlife professionals dedicated to advancing professional wildlife rehabilitation in Washington State through education and community-building! For more information or to join, please visit our membership page.

We hope to see you next year!