June 29, 2012. Lees-McRae College will celebrate the grand opening and dedication of the Dan and Dianne May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 12, on the campus in Banner Elk. The new home of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute is the first new construction on campus in nearly a decade.
Thanks to a $400,000 gift from Dan and Dianne May, residents of Linville, NC and Bonita Springs, FL, through the Edwin and Jeanette May Foundation, the new 2500 square foot facility opened in April for students, faculty and animals in the program.
With the landscaping and finishing touches going on at the Center now, college officials, faculty and students are ready to show off the new facility along the banks of the Elk River to alumni, friends and the community on July 12.
The new facility will provide an improved atmosphere for students, faculty, wildlife and visitors. One significant improvement is the addition of an education area that keeps visitors out of treatment areas, providing a more enjoyable educational experience.
“The best aspect of our new facility will be the ability to keep the rehab center behind the scenes while still providing an exceptional educational experience for our visitors,” said Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute Director Nina Fischesser. “Also, our students will now have a multipurpose work room that will provide a quiet area away from treatment for the training of animal ambassadors.”
Other improvements to the new facility include a quarantine and intensive care unit for animals that need to be kept in a quiet place. There is also a room dedicated to the study of herpetology, the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians and reptiles. The Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae College is one of the only centers of its kind in western North Carolina that is licensed to care for amphibians and reptiles.
Lees-McRae College offers two unique programs, Wildlife Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation, for students interested in wildlife with an intense, experiential component, either through field or clinical study, or a combination of both. The Wildlife Biology program has a strong focus on the wildlife and ecology of the Southern Appalachian region and offers numerous courses, such as Mammalogy, Ornithology, Conservation Biology and Natural History of Vertebrates that are not commonly available to undergraduates.
Both wildlife studies programs at Lees-McRae prepare students for a wide variety of careers in the wildlife and animal care fields, including veterinary science, parks and recreation, forestry, zoos and aquaria, fish hatcheries, natural resources and additional graduate work in wildlife and related disciplines. Students have opportunities for numerous internships with nature centers, fish hatcheries, wildlife rehabilitators and area veterinarians while in school.
Educational outreach is another important mission of BRWI. Students and faculty take animal ambassadors, non-releasable wildlife, into local schools and community organizations to educate the community about wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.
Licensed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Institute annually cares for more than 900 injured or orphaned wild animals from western North Carolina. These include animals attacked by cats, hit by cars, gunshot, caught in fences, and a myriad of other human-induced causes. This vital wildlife rehabilitation work includes medical assistance (in conjunction with trained veterinarians), feeding, housing, and supportive care. Fully recovered animals are released in appropriate wild habitats.
The community is invited to attend the grand opening celebration of the Dan and Dianne May Wildlife Center on July 12. The Center is located at 367 Mill Pond Road in Banner Elk. For more information, visit www.lmc.edu or call Meghan Wright at 828-898-8729 or email [email protected].