Nurturing animals and student experiences

Students receive valuable internship experience while caring for wildlife in the Cedar Valley

Linda Nebbe is her name and saving animals is her game.

Linda Nebbe showcases an owl that was rehabilitated through the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project.Nebbe, assistant professor of applied human sciences at UNI, founded the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project (BHWRP) more than 18 years ago. This volunteer project serves individuals in Iowa by helping them work with and care for orphaned, injured or displaced wild animals.

Having been involved in wildlife rehabilitation for more than 35 years, Nebbe moved to the Cedar Valley in 1981 and connected with the then Black Hawk Humane Society. There, orphaned or injured wild animals were taken in and cared for by staff and volunteers. After years of working with the humane society, Nebbe formed the BHWRP.

BHWRP is a nonprofit organization comprised of a DNR-licensed volunteer group dedicated to helping wildlife, such as turkey vultures, owls, raccoons, hawks, falcons, bald eagles and deer, return to their natural habitat. Governed by a board of directors, the BHWRP advisors include a veterinarian and several licensed wildlife rehabilitators. The project seeks to preserve Iowa's wildlife, facilitate networking among wildlife rehabilitators and educate the community on wildlife diversity.

Student interns are actively involved in the project, and in Nebbe's opinion, "The interns make this facility possible and have enabled it to continue over time."

"Our interns come for various reasons, and it is my goal to work with them in their area of interest," said Nebbe. "There are not too many internships of this nature available for interns in this geographical area, especially if their target interest is the wild animal."

A student-intern feeds a rehabilitated baby raccoon.John Doely, a senior biology major who is currently an intern for BHWRP, said, "I have learned that there is a lot more to wildlife rehabilitation than what most people think. It is not simply putting animals in a cage and hoping that they recover. It is actively interacting with the animals in order to someday release them back into the wild."

Interns receive unique educational opportunities, and serve more than 1,000 wild animals each year. Approximately 40 interns have gone through the BHWRP internship program.

"The wildlife center is the last resort for many of the animals we take in," said Doely. "If it were not for the rehab center, they would perish or be euthanized. It is great this center can give them a chance to recover and be released into their native wild environment."

Interns work directly with the animals and perform tasks that allow their skills to develop and to prepare them for their future. Doely feeds animals, builds and fixes cages, and builds better facilities to accommodate different animals.Interns feed a rehabilitated turkey vulture.

"I observe animals to see if they are acting 'normal' and making progress," said Doely. "In the future, I also plan to help Linda Nebbe with educational presentations to younger children, like showing and informing them about the animals in the rehab center."

Nebbe's philosophy promotes the notion of animals and humans co-existing and having a mutually beneficial relationship. Nebbe strongly believes in the concept of biophilia: the biologically based, inherent human need to affiliate with the life and life-like processes. Nebbe believes this is essential for humans.

"The most inspiring part of this internship for me is working with animals up close and personal," said Doely. "There are some really awesome animals at the rehab center that most people never get to see."

"I think we offer the interns an experience that is really unique," said Nebbe. "Most often our relationship with the intern students is ongoing. They come back to volunteer, help and just visit."


Linda Nebbe showing a barred owl to intern Michael Mass.  Intern Tiffany Fisk befriends rehabilitated raccoons during her internship with the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project internship program.  
Nebbe, assistant professor of applied human sciences at UNI, shows Michael Mass, Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project intern, a barred owl. Intern Tiffany Fisk befriends rehabilitated raccoons during her internship with the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project internship program.