Where Are They Now: Elise Bajtka

Elise Bajtka returns to Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center, where she had previously interned in 2011. Photo: Ariana Gastelum – International Bird Rescue

Former intern Elise Bajtka paid a visit to Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center on Wednesday, June 29, more than 10 years since she completed her internship. She spent her entire summer of 2011 learning how to rehabilitate oiled, injured, and orphaned birds. Today, she lives in Traverse City, Michigan, where she continues to work her way up in the veterinary field.

Question: What was a memorable moment while interning at Bird Rescue?

One of former intern Elise Bajtka’s favorite memories at Bird Rescue was washing a Barn Owl with Director of Operations Julie Skoglund. Photo courtesy: Elise Bajkta

Answer: My entire experience was memorable; it’s hard to choose just one! Washing the oiled barn owl was definitely memorable because it was a risky procedure. We had to tape the owl’s talons in case he woke up for our safety. I was very nervous monitoring his heart rate throughout anesthesia because it was difficult to auscultate through washing. Luckily, the owl made it safely through the procedure, but I was sweating and shaking the entire time.

I found my experience at the bird center was so memorable because of the people. Julie [Skoglund], Kylie [Clatterbuck] and Becky [Duerr] invited me in and welcomed me with open arms. I was not confident in wild animal or avian medicine at all, but they walked me through every step of the way. The volunteers were also extremely helpful.

Q: How did your experience at Bird Rescue contribute to your decision to work with animals as a career?

Former intern Elise Bajtka spending her time among Brown Pelicans in the Los Angeles wildlife center’s aviary in 2011. Photo courtesy: Elise Bajtka

A: My internship at the bird center helped build confidence and independence in my career that eventually led into a leadership role. After the bird center, I became a Veterinary Assistant and worked my way to Shift Lead then Practice Manager. I learned delegation, prioritization, and time management skills – all crucial in the veterinary medical field. I have been working with my practice for 13 years and just recently moved to part-time after starting my family. To this day, I value my time spent at IBR and the confidence I gained working with injured birds.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for those currently interning or considering an internship at Bird Rescue?

A: I would recommend this internship for anyone looking for a unique hands-on experience in veterinary medicine. This is a great addition to a resume that will stand out in the veterinary medical field. As for current interns, I recommend exploring the area and fully immersing yourself in the Southern California experience.