Vacations for working with animals

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 17-23, 1997
Heading where weather is a safe bet
Vacations for working with animals
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Vacations for working with animals
Question: I really would like to take a trip that allows me to have direct contact with animals. Maybe a wildlife rehabilitation program or something like that. If you know how I could find places that offer such things I'd love to hear about them.

Julie Phelps
San Diego, CA

Adventure Adviser: Unless you're a degreed wildlife biologist, you may have a hard time finding "hands-on" experiences with wild animals. Because weeks, or even years of training is necessary for the proper care and handling of wild animals, few programs feel comfortable letting volunteers get too up close and personal. That said, there are many organizations that depend on volunteers to do field work, which generally means that you'll be tromping around in the great outdoors counting condors, wading streams, or searching for humpback whales from the deck of a ship. Though this kind of work doesn't guarantee that you'll be best buddies with an abandoned baboon, it does make for a very educational vacation. Earthwatch runs dozens of field trips around the globe, many of which include involvement with animals. Call 800-776-0188 and ask for a complete catalog.

If you're interested in wildlife of a feathered variety, there is one very hands-on program. Based out of the Equinox Hotel in Manchester, Vermont, participants can learn the ancient art of falconry. A four-day course ($1,000-$1,460) will have you and the bird bonding like soulmates. You'll learn how to carry the hawk on your gloved hand, release it, and beckon it back to your hand, among many other skills. For information, call the Equinox at 802-867-5500.

Last but not least, there are programs of the local variety that are always looking for volunteers. For example, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California, provides a core training course once a year for those interested in helping to rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife. For information, call 510-935-1978.

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