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Taylor takes you on the adventure of how she found her animal dream job. It took exploring what was out there before finding her perfect fit.

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Hi everyone.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  My name is Taylor and I've been a keeper and a wildlife educator here for two years.  For those of you who've been following our channel, you've probably seen some of our amazing animals like Lollipop, our striped skunk.  I get to work and interact with her every day.  I absolutely love my job here and today I want to share a little bit of my background and how I got this incredible job.


Many of our viewers are interested in a career with animals, and when I was trying to find my way, I found it really helpful to see how others did it, so here's my story.  I grew up in the suburbs outside of Cincinnati and for as long as I can remember, I've loved animals.  I used to watch Animal Planet any chance I got, and I loved learning about all the really cool animals all over the world.  Most of all, I wanted to be able to meet and interact with all those animals that I saw on TV. 

However, growing up near a big city meant that there weren't a lot of wild animals that I could see.   Sure there were the occasional squirrels or rabbits or deer and the occasional raccoon or possum getting into our trash cans, but I wanted to see the animals that I saw on Animal Planet.  I wanted to see lions and eagles and Galapagos tortoises and starfish and so much more, so one of my favorite places to go when I was a kid was the Cincinnati Zoo.  There, I could see and interact with the animals that I had seen on TV.  The zoo was a place where I truly began to appreciate exotic animals.

As I grew older, my love of animals only increased and by the time I got into high school, I knew I wanted a career working with animals.  The only problem was, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do or where to start, so before I started my senior year in high school, I volunteered at the Cincinnati Zoo.  I spent most of my time in the children's zoo, cleaning up after the goats and talking with the kids, but there was one day where I got to talk with guests outside the new cougar exhibit. 

After most of the guests had left, I got to talk with the keeper.  She had worked with dolphins down in Florida, elephants in Thailand, and now she was hand-raising cougar cubs.  That one conversation was a major turning point for me.  I realized I didn't want to work with dogs and cats.  I wanted to work with wild animals.  I wanted that life.  

After that, I started looking at colleges that had wildlife biology or zoology programs.  I took one look through the University of Montana's website and I was sold.  I ran down the stairs and told my mom, This is where I want to go, so without even visiting, I packed my bags and I flew to Montana.   The wildlife biology program was fantastic and I loved my classes and my professors but it was the internships that really helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life.

I spent a summer researching butterflies in Cumberland, Ohio.  It involved a lot of very hot hikes during the middle of the day, but it was also some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.  I had an absolute blast there, but I also realized that while research is cool and exciting, it wasn't what I wanted to do.  So the next summer, I volunteered at the Red Wolf Sanctuary and Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Rising Sun, Indiana.  There, I got to prepare food for owls, hawks, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and bears, and I thought, okay, this is definitely closer, but I didn't get to do as much hands-on work as I wanted to.  That led me to the Northwoods Wildlife Center in Minocqua, Wisconsin, where I had my aha moment.  

As an intern there, I got to help rehabilitate and educate about all kinds of different wildlife.  The rehabilitation work was rewarding, but it was also extremely stressful and hard.  We were constantly receiving new animals in varying degrees of health while also trying to help the hundreds of animals we already had.  While caring for the animals was exciting, I quickly realized my favorite part of the internship was education.  I got to lead tours, present ecology programs, and teach about native wildlife.  The best was when I shared a fact with kids or adults and I got them to look at the animal with amazement, laughter, or despair, and I saw them form a connection.  That's when I knew I wanted to bring people and animals together.

I believe these connections are necessary for people to appreciate the natural world.  After I graduated from college, I was enjoying an internship at the Missoula Insectarium, trying to find the right place for me when I heard about Animal Wonders.  After meeting and talking with Jessi, I knew Animal Wonders was where I wanted to work.  Here I get to work with some amazing animals like Maui, our green-cheek conure.  I also get to share my passion for animals with others by giving public presentations to our local community.  

Sometimes after I tell people my degrees, they ask what my dream job would be and my answer is, I'm already living it.  Whether you want to be a zookeeper, rehabilitator, veterinarian, or a wildlife educator, there are so many paths you can take if you want a career with animals.  The best part is, there's no right way, so everyone will have their own story.  

I'm so happy I found my dream job here at Animal Wonders, and I hope our videos let you see just how special Animal Wonders is.  Thank you so much for letting me share my story with you.  If you're interested, I can make another video with my advice on how to get your own animal job.  Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, animalwondersmontana.  Thanks and we'll see you next time.