Who takes care of the wildlife at UT?

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Carin Peterson manages the Animal Make Safe program with UT’s Environmental Health and Safety department. Peterson responds to calls about wildlife that have gotten into university buildings or are found injured or trapped and often releases them outside in natural areas like Waller Creek.

Photo Credit: Hannah Simon | Daily Texan Staff

There are all sorts of animals living at UT, from the well-known turtles and squirrels to the less familiar, including bats and snakes. 

Carin Peterson, Animal Make Safe training & outreach coordinator, said seasonal animal activity is about to bring one of the busiest times of the year for wildlife calls at UT. 

“We respond to about 120 calls a year … about wildlife inside buildings,” Peterson said. “We also respond to calls about injured animals or baby animals found.” 

Peterson and her team keep track of wildlife and help trap and release animals that have wandered into buildings. About 90 percent of the time, Peterson said the animals are released back outside, but when there are injured animals or animals that need to be relocated, her team works with Austin Wildlife Rescue. 

“If (students) can assist an animal getting out on its own … then we want them to do that, unless there has been contact with an animal that is considered high rabies risk, which would be bats and raccoons,” Peterson said. 

While wildlife is spread out across campus, Peterson said interactions with wildlife tend to happen more frequently by Waller Creek.

Peterson said they want students to enjoy the wildlife from a distance and not disturb the animals by feeding them. 

“We try to strike a balance between people’s safety and the animal’s home,” Peterson said. “We try to encourage people to look at them but not to touch. We want people to appreciate them and know that they’re here too.”

Chemistry sophomore Gabi Boyle said during her freshman year, she used to take the long way to class just so she could see the turtles at the turtle pond.

“My way of relaxing and taking care of myself is being outside and around nature,” Boyle said. “Just because we’re a campus and most of the people here are here to study doesn’t mean it’s not filled with the outdoors, and the animals still have a place here.”

Biology sophomore Caren Elhenawy said she also enjoys observing the animals on campus and said we have a part to play in taking care of them. Elhenawy said she has dissected a squirrel for a class and learned squirrels have larger livers to help handle the food people feed them. 

 

“I feel like especially this year there has been such (unpredictable) weather,” Elhenawy said. “We need to take (UT wildlife) into consideration more. I feel like we shouldn’t go around feeding them fries and stuff because that stuff is not good for them.” 

Peterson said she knows the community wants to connect to nature, and she appreciates staff and student cooperation. 

“I am an animal lover,” Peterson said. “My background is in wildlife biology, so that’s what I’ve focused my whole career and life on. I’m definitely pro-animal, but I’m also pro-safety … (and) pro-appropriate animal management.”