20, No. 15, March 1, 2001
On the Job:
by Sharita Forrest
by Bill Wiegand
Paceley is a secretary in the veterinary biosciences department.
She's been in that department for five years and been at the
university for 16 years. Although she works in the College
of Veterinary Medicine, she's really involved in animals more
at home. She's licensed to rehabilitate wild animals. She
also will take care of animals from the UI's South Farms that
are without a mother such as the six lambs that she is currently
is your job with the UI, and how long have you worked for the university?
Im a secretary in the veterinary/biosciences department. Ive
been in this department for five years, but Ive been with the
university for 16 years. I take care of graduate students, keep their
records and charts, and enter grades in Gradebook.
Have you been an animal lover all your life?
Yes. One of the professors started calling me Ellie Mae,
like the character on the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies.
I said, Oh, shes my idol! And he was surprised it
didnt make me mad. I wanted to be like Ellie Mae when I was a
kid and have all those critters. I have a lot of critters, just not
the same type she had, and I dont have a cee-ment pond.
Thats also how I got the nickname the Critter Lady.
A co-worker there just started calling me that because I sometimes had
boxes of little animals under my desk. And the name just stuck. So I
use it to sign my e-mails.
How did you get started rehabilitating wild animals?
The Wildlife Ward at the UI takes in orphaned and injured wild animals.
Then rehabbers like me take the animals when theyre medically
sound and raise them until theyre old enough to take care of themselves
in the wild. At first, the Wildlife Ward asked me to help them on my
lunch hours. Then they helped me get my license to rehabilitate wild
animals. I cant keep any of them; I have to release them in state-approved
What did you have to do to get licensed?
I got training through the Wildlife Ward. I learned how to tube-feed
and bottle-feed the animals and all the care that an orphaned animal
needs. I learned how to mix up formula for them, how much each one needs
depending on its body weight and when to start putting them on solid
Every year, I have
to submit a form to the State Conservation Department telling what animals
I had and where and when I got them. I also have to state what happened
to the animals: whether I released them and the location or if the animals
died or were euthanized. Based upon that form, they decide whether or
not to issue the next years license. Its against the law
to keep wild animals without a license, and people dont realize
Where do all the animals come from?
The Conservation Department gives my name out to people who find animals,
as does the sheriffs department, the Humane Society and local
veterinarians. I also get animals from the UI Wildlife Ward.
What types of animals and how many do you take care of?
I think the most Ive had is 453 in one year. That was a little
too many. Ive had rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, a few birds. I
used to take opossums, but I dont anymore because they carry a
disease thats dangerous to my daughters horses. I got three
little chickens one time that someone had left in a cage under a bench
at the bus station. Ive gotten pea-hens [female peacocks], and
I got four ducks that someone had bought as pets for their kids. I also
get calves and lambs from the university that need to be taken care
How many animals of your own do you have?
Two horses, three dogs, three cats, a cow, probably a dozen or more
chickens and ducks, a pea-hen and the Nanday Conure [a member of the
parrot family]. We get pigs in April to raise to butcher and thats
what well do with the cow. Some people think thats a little
contradictory that I raise livestock to eat when Im helping save
the wild animals.
How do you find the time to take care of all these
It keeps me busy, and my daughter and sons help out. I used to keep
all the animals in the house. Weve even kept the lambs and baby
pigs in the back room of the house. The raccoons are the hardest to
raise because they have to be taught how to fish so they can catch their
own food. We get a little wading pool and some goldfish, and by playing
in the water with them they eventually learn how to fish.
Where do you get the food for all these animals?
I try to get feed companies to donate because I dont get paid
for any of it. Its all out of my pocket. The payoff is to see
the animals living. Some of the big feed companies will help out and
What do you enjoy most about taking care of all these animals?
I know some of the babies arent going to live because theyre
so tiny, but I try. I like nursing them to health. Its worth it
when I can finally take them to be released into one of the approved
We had 26 baby raccoons one year. Theyd follow us around like
children and squeal when someone came in the door. It was total bedlam,
especially at feeding time when wed be propping nipples up everywhere
trying to feed 26 squalling babies. Thats when I realized that
453 animals that year was too many.