Vanessa Gallt always wanted to work with animals, and she found the perfect outlet as an animal care volunteer at the District’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. She prepares diets for the numerous native wildlife Willowbrook cares for, cleans animal enclosures and monitors the well-being of animals.
“I enjoy volunteering at Willowbrook because it gives me an opportunity to do something I don't normally get to do in my day-to-day life,” said Gallt, who’s a restaurant manager. “I also love all the other people I work with at Willowbrook. Thursday's have quite a crew!”
On her first day volunteering, she was able to get close to an American bald eagle while feeding birds in Willowbrook’s raptor flight facility. “She knew it was feeding time and flew right to my feet. It was pretty amazing!”
Gallt’s efforts have had a lasting effect on wildlife because she has helped nurse injured animals back to health so they can be released back into the wild.
The most useful “tool” for her work is a towel, Gallt said, which she uses to dry dishes, line cage and safely move and hold animals with. “We appreciate all the donations and how much those donations help us care for the animals,” Gallt said.
In addition to working with animals, Gallt said she enjoys hiking in the preserves and seeing all the scenery. Her two favorite sites are Round Meadow Lake at Hidden Lake Forest Preserve in Downers Grove and Harrier Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods in Wayne. She also enjoys Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.
“I love the colors and sounds because they can be so relaxing,” Gallt said. “Nature is amazing, from watching animals and flowers grow to watching storms and weather changes. Nothing can get in nature’s way.”
Gallt said it’s fascinating to watch wildlife in the preserves and in her yard, where she’s been growing native plants to attract pollinators. “I love watching all the birds and butterflies that stop by.
“Birds have been growing on me. I love goldfinches and woodpeckers. Opossums have always been a favorite too. A specific animal would be the cormorant out on Willowbrook's outdoor nature trail. I love when it’s feeding time because he always makes me laugh.
Spring and fall are her favorite seasons in DuPage forest preserves. “I love the colors and the weather is usually perfect,” Gallt said.