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Slice of Life: What it's like to be a volunteer at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center

What it’s like to be a volunteer at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center

ELBURN – Amanda Tate gently held the baby gold finch as she squirted an electrolyte into its mouth with a syringe.

“These guys’ heads are so small,” said Tate, an 18-year-old Sugar Grove resident. “They just get a few squirts to keep them hydrated.”

It’s all in a day’s work in her duties as a volunteer at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center near Elburn. Those at the center take care of injured and orphaned animals.

Volunteering is a family affair for the Tate family. Her 13-year-old brother, Zachary Tate, and their mother, Donna Tate, also volunteer at the center. On this particular day, Amanda Tate was working in the bird room at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center. Since some of the birds are orphaned, she has to perform a few of the duties their mother normally would do, such as feeding them.

A few minutes later, she responds to the timers going off, indicating the birds need to be fed.

“We try to maintain the same times as the mom would feed their babies,” Amanda Tate said. She is currently an intern for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center, a job that has her working with many different animals, from birds to raccoons to coyotes.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Amanda Tate said. “I love the complexity of all the different animals.”

As she is working in the bird room, her mother and brother are putting fruit out for a group of orphaned raccoons enclosed in outdoor cages. They have watched the raccoons grow since they started out on formula, Donna Tate said.

Donna Tate and her family have been volunteering at the center since May 2013. She also is an intern at the center and will bring some of the animals from the Fox Valley Wildlife Center to schools and daycare centers to explain what goes on at the center.

“I do education programs about what we do here,” she said. “My son, this is what he wants to do as a career. I home-school our kids, and you can’t beat this kind of training.”

After feeding the raccoons, Donna Tate and her son head to another set of raccoon cages, which are in need of cleaning. She has managed to ignore the stench emanating from the cages, saying, “the longer you are here each day, you just become immune to it.”

Zachary Tate dumps the brown-colored water from the plastic pool inside a raccoon cage and goes about scrubbing the pool inside and out. After that task is done, he is covered in dirt.

He said he doesn’t mind, though.

“I’ve always loved animals,” he said. “I want to help them get back to the wild if I can. I like feeding the babies, especially the raccoon babies. It is an amazing thing being so close to these animals, like coyotes.”

Information about the Fox Valley Wildlife Center is available at its website,

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