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NWRA Symposium 2002
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Our 20-Year Journey Through Rehabilitation, Education, and Professionalism

St. Louis, MO

by Sue Coulson

On a windy, chilly day in March, close to 500 wildlife rehabilitators gathered at the Sheraton St. Louis City Center Hotel for the 20th Anniversary Symposium of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, hosted by the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS).

As has become tradition, the ExxonMobil-sponsored Icebreaker on Tuesday evening provided members with a chance to greet old friends, swap stories, and help newcomers feel welcome over a glass of wine (or whatever) and hardy hors d'oeuvres.

The inimitable Walter C. Crawford, Jr., Executive Director of the WBS, (did any of you see him on the lead float at the Rose Bowl Parade?) set the tone for the meeting in his keynote address. He explored the road we have traveled as a profession over these last twenty years, and then challenged us to the work of the next twenty. When the next generation, represented by his toddler grandson, joined him at the podium, there were many misty eyes in the audience.

Attendees were treated to a varied and extensive palette of sessions over the next four days on birds, mammals, reptiles, administration, education, and new sessions on environmental contaminants, pre-release assessments, and post-release studies. A large predator issues panel met to address rehabilitating and releasing large mammal predators. Additionally, a session was held this year to explore pain management in our patients.

Many conference goers grabbed the opportunity to learn something new by attending the Effects of Oil on Wildlife Seminar presented this year. Experts from Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc., and International Bird Rescue Research Center, which are the only two facilities in the country equipped to handle a major spill response, led this interactive session. Upon completion, attendees received a Certificate of Attendance including four hours of OSHA approved safety training.

Lest you think that all rehabilitators at a conference do is study and train, hoards of us descended on the World Bird Sanctuary to see their new Environmental Education Center, Rehabilitation Hospital, and Thick-billed Parrot Facility. We also spent a day along the Mississippi River with a WBS naturalist guide, enjoying the National Scenic Byway and birding in this important migration stopover.

Certainly, the host city provided excitement and possessed a charm all its own. St. Louis, the Gateway to the West, furnished lots of fun things to do during free time, especially the wonderful blues music and great restaurants along the river, and a world-famous zoo. Many (those without acrophobia and claustrophobia) rode to the top of the Gateway Arch! I was not one of them.

As one rehabilitator said to me during checkout, “This has been an incredible experience. I love coming to the symposium to get my batteries recharged, to learn something new, and to go home rededicated to my chosen profession. This was the best one yet!”


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