Board Treasurer Dani Nicholson shares tidbits of her journey in wildlife rehab

photo of Dani NicholsonPlease share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

My father and mother were active and adventurous, respected all animals and nature in general. We loved to be outdoors. I remember stopping the car to watch snakes and tarantulas cross the road. The brown bears were understood to be beautiful and respected for their power and intelligence. For a time, we lived on our grandparents property outside of Yosemite and were taught that a particular outcropping of rocks was to be avoided because the rattlesnakes lived there and came out to sun themselves. No one would have ever killed them, we simply learned how to avoid confrontations with wildlife, which I’ve carried my entire life. I remember being mesmerized by spider webs and the list goes on and on.  We were only allowed to watch programs on television about nature, other than the occasional sporting events. My father was especially curious about nature and was my greatest influence, but my mother’s side of the family is Native American which I believe also influenced the way we lived.

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?

I had begun transporting for Pacific Wildlife Care after being introduced to the organization when I found 7 young opossums on our property. I helped raise them until they went to a rehabilitator. I joined, and at my first training with PWC, I heard from the instructor that there are two organizations we should join, IWRC and NWRA. I joined both immediately.

I had a conversation with Kai Williams, IWRC’s Executive Director, about my history, and when I mentioned that I had been an accountant, Kai’s eyes lit up while she explained that their current Treasurer was going to be stepping down due to other commitments. We discussed my joining the board, and I was happy to be able to support IWRC in this way.

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

I feel that having been a mother has brought me a sense of selflessness when faced with a vulnerable animal who needs help; my history of owning a retail business has helped me to understand how to work with the public and with volunteers within our center, and my profession of accounting has helped me to understand the needs of running a business, even a non-profit rehabilitation center and now in helping IWRC as Treasurer.

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I feel that I accomplished what I have dreamed of my entire life, working with animals and living in the country. I am proud of the many steps I’ve taken in life to get here. Helping animals makes me feel vital and alive.

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

Dr. Jane Goodall has always been my idol. I believe she came along at a time when I was young and impressionable. She made me think that I wanted to do something like she was doing. I didn’t know where that would lead, but the fact that she was doing what I admired, inspired me.

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t do anything different; however, I also love art and would love to paint and make more pottery.

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

I would love to be a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) – to be able to fly over the ocean. Being in love with brown pelicans and loving the ocean has informed that choice.

What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?

For a train in India. I don’t mind waiting in lines – you are in a perfect position to watch people, which I love to do.

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

I would say that worrying about an animal’s health is the #1 cause of sleepless nights; however, on a positive note, it would have to be interactions with wildlife such as my recent whale excursions in Baja California.

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

I have 3 rescued domestic geese (2 were attacked by dogs at a local lake, and 1 was obviously a hand raised pet that had been dumped at a lake); 8 Rhode Island red chickens; 4 dogs (2 border collie mixes who protect my other animals, 1 lap dog and 1 black and tan coon hound); 1 rescued black cat and 2 budgies who were found hatched this year at a friend’s aviary (not a rescue, but also not purchased).

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