Hello and Happy New Year!
2021 was just as unpredictable for the TWRC Wildlife Center as was 2020. In the two years and three months I have been with TWRC, only four of the months were non-COVID. The road has been difficult, but TWRC has made great strides, nonetheless.
As with everything else in 2021, our budget faced some major challenges. Donations began to rise and grants started to be awarded, however, we saw increases in rent and other fixed expenses. December was good to us again as donors gave generously to our Giving Tuesday fundraiser, Winter Appeal, and general donations. Thank you so much for your support!
Early in the year, the animal ambassadors safely weathered a deep freeze and extended power outages in the homes of Amber, Victoria, and Mary. Halfway through the year, the Education Department welcomed its first-ever Education Manager, Amber Leung. Amber continues to update and optimize all animal diets and enclosures while evaluating and expanding the education offerings. This year marks a return to near-normal education program numbers with a total of 57 outreach events. This is more than double the total for 2020 and nearly on par with the 2018 and 2019 totals. We bid farewell to Pugsley the opossum and welcomed Blossom in his place. We look forward to inviting Woody, a male wood duck, and Pico, a red-tailed hawk, as animal ambassadors in 2022.
ANIMAL CARE PROGRAM (ACP)
Heather Cragun, ACP Manager, along with Coordinators, Lauren Hamilton, and Rachel Martinez continue to provide a first-rate program for all of the animals in the Animal Care Program. The hard freeze in February appeared to affect wildlife in different ways. ACP had less squirrels than usual in the Spring, but a surprising increase in the number of opossums. Baby bird intakes decreased, perhaps due to the lack of available food. However, there was a rebound of squirrels in the Fall, and they were plenty busy!
ACP admissions increased by 22% in 2021 and they had a noteworthy increase in release rates compared to previous years. Songbird release rates increased 30% from 3 years ago! The ACP staff was very thankful to be able to welcome back volunteers later in the year to help with the increased workload and to see new and familiar faces once again. They also had an impressive group of supervisors and interns who gave our wildlife top notch care, and they collectively deserve a special shout out for all of their hard work. We also couldn't have done it without all of the dedicated home-based rehabbers that took our animals through the all-important step of release back into the wild.
ACP staff are now happy for the current slow period when the Animal Care Program gets to close down for a few months. The staff will get some much-needed time for self-care and to reflect on even better improvements for next year. Baby season will be here again before we know it!
VOLUNTEERS AND INTERNS
TWRC welcomed our new Volunteer Coordinator, Madelyn Martinez, in 2021. Madelyn joined us from the Houston Holocaust Museum, and we are thrilled to have her. Madelyn is our first contractor in this position. She has reorganized our volunteer and internship programs, offering volunteer information sessions and orientations monthly, as well, as tying our internship programs into university programs for credit. COVID had decreased our volunteer pool considerably. Madelyn has helped bring it back to life. We had 2,500 volunteer hours in 2021. Thank you to all of the returning volunteers who worked so hard this year and we welcome all of the new volunteers!
We had 16 interns in 2021: Maria Arcos, Kristen Deason, Kylie del Castillo, Andrew Delph, Lizzy Foster, Cielo Garcia, Grace Hathorn, Donia Kaseb, Anthony Kearns, Grace Konieczny, Alyssa Lewis, Alexandra Mahadeo, Adriana Puzon, Ola Saleh, Claire Schwabenland, Madelaine "Maddy" Smith, and Taylor Snyder. They worked in all areas including assisting with intakes, caring for our Ambassador Animals, and caring for babies in the Animal Care Program. They worked very hard and we couldn’t be more proud of these young people.
ADMISSIONS AND VET ROOM
Elizabeth Bongiovanni joined TWRC as our Admissions Supervisor in 2021 and Liz Compton continues as our Hospital Manager. Together, they have kept our admissions and vet room running smoothly during hectic and unpredictable times. We admitted 4,162 animals from 137 species. This was a 30 percent increase in animal admissions over 2020.
With Covid vaccines becoming available in 2021, we were safely able to begin accepting volunteers back into the Center and are on track to have enough volunteer support to handle the next busy season. We were lucky to have a wonderful group of bright, hardworking interns and volunteers in 2021 who made the admissions run smoothly during our busiest times of the year. A special shout-out to GG Hileman and Barbara Hall who have answered our helpline phones consistently this year. Also, thank you to Deb Near, from the ACP, for stepping in and working in the vet room during the ACP off season. Thanks Deb!
Of course, we couldn’t do what we do without our key home-based rehabilitators who tirelessly care for animals day-in-and-day-out: Amanda Remsberg, Becky Brown, Becky Nichols, Charlona Ingram, Elaine Long, Judith Odell, Kathy Kelly, Kathryn Spiegel, Lee Ann Lawrence, Matt Walton, Michelle Shannon, Nancy Head, Roslyn Even, Terrell Stroud, Charli Rohack, Barbara Hall, Chelsea Lester, Cindy Kahle, Gina Disteldorf, Janet Kelly, Jennifer Smith, JoAnn Sanchez, Kathy Warren, Kristin Yowell, Liz Martin, Mariana Navarro, Melissa Morris, Mieko Miller, Nancy Johnston, Paula Jones, Shannon Weidner, Svetlana Baraniuk, Teresa Robotham, Teya Miller, Tom Lenox, Umut Gokcesu, and Wesley Sykes.
Our wonderful grant writers, Susan Byrd and Maggie Kunckler, acquired over $60,000 in grant funding for our vet room to be expanded into the Roslyn Even Wildlife Hospital. The hospital will be open by February of 2022 with over four times more space and with state-of-the-art examination, x-ray, laboratory, and surgical equipment.
Thank you to our awesome 2021 Fundraising & Events Committee: Jeannie Gresko, Susan Kadow, Deb Near, Samantha Norris, Susan Permenter, and Anna Saxton. They organized many engaging and fun events during the year and had to pivot multiple times as they worked around the rising and falling COVID numbers and whether our events could be held in person or not.
I am deeply grateful for our staff, who worked tirelessly through another year of COVID to help every animal that entered our doors. I want to acknowledge all of our staff: Elizabeth Bongiovanni, Liz Compton, Heather Cragun, Lauren Hamilton, Amber Leung, Rachel Martinez, Deb Near, Samantha Norris, Anna Saxton, and Kelly Seenarine for their tireless work. THANK YOU!! There are so many other people who are pivotal in making TWRC successful, but this letter would be miles long if I named them all. Thank you to each one of you!
Thank you to our Board of Directors Sydney Free, Terry Rooney, Maggie Kunckler, Susan Permenter, and Dr. Cheryl Hoggard for their hard work, guidance, and oversight. This year they worked on projects such as writing and designing our two appeals, grant writing, event planning, and planning our new wildlife hospital.
Finally, a huge thank you to all of our generous donors. From formula to brand new cage covers to Amazon orders, to monetary donations, we are truly lucky to have such wonderful supporters!
Thank you for your continued support of TWRC, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!!!