CLAWS, is a wildlife rescue, rehab, and education organization that is entirely non-profit, all of the work is done by volunteers. Even Kindra and Vinny, who run CLAWS, only get paid in animal pellets and other things they clean up. Volunteering with CLAWS has taught me a lot of things, from working with wildlife, to working with people, and I enjoyed every moment of learning.
To start as a volunteer with CLAWS is to go right into working with the public. Everyone starts volunteering at a public educational event. Most people start as a spotter, someone who stands next to a holder and keeps the public from getting too close. However, I started out holding Grip the African raven, so right away I was talking to the public. Telling all these people why he was one of our permanent education birds and answering questions about Grip, ravens in general and CLAWS. I don’t normally like to talk to people but doing it to educate them about the birds made it easy. It helped, of course, that each bird’s story is like a script. I learned how to talk to people, and that it’s not so hard to do if you're talking about something you enjoyed.
As I continued volunteering at more educational events, for the next 3 years I got to hold a variety of birds, such as Grip, the African raven, and Eastern Screech Owls. The Screech owls think they are very fierce, but are also very tiny. Both Grip and the Screech are level one birds. I also held The barn owl River and barred owl Watani level two birds. At a recent show, I got the privilege of holding Kiwi the Coopers hawk a level three bird. Holding all the different birds and learning their stories were amazing, each of them has a different personality and I enjoy holding Grip every bit as much as a Kiwi.
Other than at shows there is another way to volunteer, and that is to take phone shifts. On phone shifts calls are forwarded to your phone and people leave a message with their name, number, county and information about the animal they are concerned about. When on phones you listen to these messages and call the people back to tell them what they need to do, be that put the animal back in its nest, leave it alone, bring the animal in, or put them in contact with another rehabber in their area who can help when we can't.
Taking phone shifts requires you to talk to a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds and dispositions. Sometimes telling the person on the other end of the phone that they have a fledgling, a bird that has just left the nest and is learning to fly while it's parents continue to care for it a process that takes 1-3 days, and that they should return the bird where they found him and just let him be is easy. Sometimes it's not, people are often convinced that fledglings are full grown birds with broken wings or legs and they want to hear is that they are right and that they need to bring this animal to us or better yet bring it in and take care of it themselves which isn't legal.(?) you have to convince these people to do the right thing and take the bird outside and let him grow up. This is just one example of how you have to talk to people and even convince them that you know what you are doing and that the bird really will be fine in the wild. Taking phones doesn't have a fixed script, what is required to ask and say changes with every phone call and sometimes you have to contact Kindra to ask her what she wants done about a particular case because you don't know. Taking phones taught me to ask if I don't know and how to talk to a variety of people. Talking to people about animals also taught me patience because when someone calls you about an animal they think is injured they are generally scared for the animal and possibly have already talked to multiple people who couldn't or didn't help them before they get to you, so they might not be frustrated and not the most polite and open to what needs to be done.