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Join Our Crew of Animal Care Volunteers!

Written by Danny Pirtle
    Friday, 04 January 2019
Join Our Crew of Animal Care Volunteers!

My most memorable “nature moments” as a kid involved close encounters with animals: meeting live snakes at Riverbend Nature Center in my hometown of Racine, encountering bighorn sheep on a family trip to Badlands National Park, going fishing in lakes in Northern Wisconsin. At the Urban Ecology Center, our mission is to connect people to nature, and providing interactions with animals is one of the most visceral ways we do that.

Across the three branches of the Urban Ecology Center, we have 29 live animals in our care, including turtles, snakes, frogs, salamanders, and fish. All of these animals (with the exception of three turtles) are native to Wisconsin, representatives of animals we share our environment with right here in Milwaukee and the surrounding area.

It takes a lot of work to provide top-notch care for our resident critters. Feeding crickets to box turtles, weighing bullsnakes, giving snapping turtles an opportunity to stretch their legs outside of their tanks, cleaning and replacing the soil in the salamander tank, making sure the fish filter is running smoothly – this is just a handful of the tasks required to keep our animals alive, healthy, and happy.

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Left:  Sara, Menomonee Valley's bull snake, says hello. Right: Chica, a Mexican Ornate Box Turtle, eating a strawberry!

As the newly appointed Animal Care Coordinator, I have been tasked with ensuring that we are providing this care for all of our animals and I have discovered that caring for 29 animals is no small task! That is why I’m reaching out to the Urban Ecology Center volunteer pool and the Milwaukee community in search of a team of awesome volunteers to help me provide our resident animals with food, water, clean habitats, and enrichment every day.

Do you love working with animals? Do you want to help further the mission of the Urban Ecology Center by providing our visitors with close encounters with native wildlife? Are you available for two hours on a weekly basis? Then perhaps you should consider applying to be an Animal Care Volunteer! Below is the position description for this volunteer opportunity. If this sounds like something you are interested in, instructions for applying are at the bottom of this blog post.

Animal Care Volunteer Position Description

This volunteer position helps care for the live animals at one of our three branches once a week. The animal care volunteer will feed the animals by preparing all necessary diets for the animals for that day, taking the animals out of their enclosures, giving them their food in the appropriate manner, and recording all food eaten in the animal care records. Daily animal room tasks will also be conducted, including water changes, misting of tanks, and waste removal. Animal care volunteers must be comfortable handling live animals, feeding live insects to reptiles and amphibians, following all live animal protocol, and engaging our visitors in all of the processes. This volunteer position requires a weekly commitment of 2 hours.

Duties/Responsibilities

1. Prepare all diets for animals, which may include pellets, fruits, vegetables, frozen mice and rats, live crickets, live mealworms, and live nightcrawlers.

2. Feed all food to animals, following all established protocols for doing so.

3. Monitor amount of food eaten by each animal and record this information accurately and promptly in data logs.

4. Other daily tasks, including water changes, tank misting, and waste removal.

5. Interact with visitors to the animal room during your shift by engaging them in all animal feeding work and processes, as appropriate.

6. Work collaboratively with high school outdoor leaders in all tasks.

7. Attend periodic large group trainings and professional development sessions.

Prerequisite Skills Needed

• Ability to follow established procedures and protocols

• Ability to be flexible and quickly solve problems

• Ability to work independently and work well with others

• Strong communication skills

• Excitement for interacting with people and sharing our animals with visitors to the center

• Familiarity with the Urban Ecology Center and our mission

• Experience working with live animals encouraged but not required

• Experience working with high school students encouraged but not required

Necessary Time Commitment: Animal care volunteers are expected to commit to one 2-hour shift weekly.

Physical Requirements: Ability to unlock and reach into glass aquariums, sit on the floor with kids, and be on your feet for extended periods of time needed for this position.

To apply for this position

Send an email to Danny Pirtle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., which includes the following information:

1. Your name

2. Which of the following shifts you are interested/able to fill (if more than one, provide a ranking):
-Tuesday or Wednesday evening at Riverside Park
-Tuesday or Wednesday evening at Washington Park
-Tuesday or Wednesday evening at Menomonee Valley
-Saturday afternoon at Riverside Park
-Saturday afternoon at Washington Park
-Saturday afternoon at Menomonee Valley

3. Why are you interested in being an Animal Care Volunteer at the Urban Ecology Center?

4. Why do you feel that live animals are an important component of an environmental and community organization such as the Urban Ecology Center?

5. What prior experience do you have working with live animals, if any? (Include experience with pets!)

If you have any other questions about this volunteer opportunity, please feel free to email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’m excited to begin assembling our team of animal care volunteers and I hope you’ll join us!

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Danny Pirtle

Danny Pirtle

Danny grew up on the shore of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin. After spending time studying the natural world (and seeing a whole lot of birds) in Minnesota, California, Indiana, and Australia, he returned to his Midwestern roots and is now the Animal Care Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center. His favorite bird is the Pigeon Guillemot and his favorite nature sound is the trill of the American Toad. When away from UEC, he can be found walking with his puppy and his partner on the Oak Leaf Trail, hosting trivia downtown, or curled up with the latest Star Wars novel.

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