DCCC Students Rehabilitate Raptors, Gain Confidence as Part of Zoo Internship

Leigh Clodfelter

July 29, 2013 – Students in the Zoo and Aquarium Science program at Davidson County Community College are taking their career aspirations to soaring new heights this summer by working with raptors and other species at various wildlife centers across the Southeast. 

ZAS students Leigh Clodfelter, of High Point, and Dacota Owens, of Lexington, are both gaining valuable career skills at each of their internships. Clodfelter is researching and rehabilitating orphaned and injured native raptors at the Carolina Raptor Center, in Huntersville, N.C., while Owens is also getting hands-on experience with large birds and other species at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrell’s Inlet, S.C.

As interns, both students are responsible for various duties to help care for the animals and maintain the exhibits.

As medical intern at the rehabilitation hospital, Clodfelter is responsible for preparing the diets of bird patients and administering medications, orally and through injection. She also assists with radiographs, physical therapy, exercising and euthanasia of birds that are not releasable. 

Like Clodfelter, Owens is responsible for feeding animals, maintaining the enclosures, preparing diets, providing enrichment, and even capturing animals to administer medications. 

Both Owens and Clodfelter say their experiences this summer have built their confidence in working with large animals and in decision making on the job.

Leigh Clodfelter 2

“My internship experience has impacted my future goal of being a full-time keeper by showing me what to expect in this position,” says Owens. “Working on my own as a keeper has given me more confidence in knowing that I can proficiently do the job, and I believe this will benefit me in future interviews and jobs.” 

“These are some of the most dangerous birds to handle, and I am learning how to care for them on a daily basis,” says Clodfelter. “I am getting firsthand experience with treating bird ailments, such as diseases and parasites, and learning important aspects of bird anatomy, while also contributing to the release of rehabilitated birds back into the wild.”

According to Clodfelter, the coursework in the DCCC ZAS program prepared her immensely for her experiences at this internship; particularly, the Animal Behavior course, where she learned the mating rituals, parenthood and imprinting habits of birds. Clodfelter says this information was invaluable when working with orphaned raptors that came to the facility regularly.

Owens says the experiences that have stood out the most to her have been working hands on with some unique and rare animals. Some of these experiences include assisting in trimming the beak and talons of a Red-tailed Hawk, capturing a Great Horned Owl and a White Ibis to provide medication, capturing several Bald Eagles and working with newborn otters.Owens

Clodfelter had the unique opportunity this summer to find a home for a young male Red-shouldered Hawk that was rehabilitated at the center, who, due to a wing injury, could not be released back into the wild. She found a home for him with a female Red-shouldered Hawk at Rowan Wildlife Adventures, and was also given the privilege of naming him – Monty.

Upon graduation, Clodfelter hopes to pursue a career in rehabilitation of injured birds at a similar facility or work with birds at a zoo. She has already secured a job through a previous DCCC ZAS program internship with Rowan Wildlife Adventures.

Likewise, Owens hopes to work as a full-time keeper, working closely with the animals, and aspires to one day work in the field of conservation. She also holds an associate’s degree in science.

*Editor’s Note: Pictured in the first photo is Clodfelter holding a Red-tailed Hawk as she prepares to weigh the raptor. In the second photo, Clodfelter feeds an underweight Red-tailed Hawk. The third photo shows Dacota Owens working with a Red-tailed Hawk following a beak and talon trim.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations, and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College on the Web at davidsonccc.edu