Every day brings a new animal adventure for Project Wildlife’s first full-time vet
Examining a dozen or so wild animals and performing acupuncture on a wild rabbit—that’s a slow day for Dr. Jon Enyart, Project Wildlife’s first and only full-time veterinarian.
Prior to his hiring in October, Project Wildlife worked with an experienced wildlife vet on a contract basis.
“Now that I’ve arrived, we’ve been able to really up our game when it comes to medical and surgical procedures and ongoing care like pain medication,” he says. “I can jump on any questions the team has right away.”
Enyart is a former emergency room vet and holistic medicine specialist; his team includes two registered vet techs and two assistants. Three-quarters of the 12,000 patients they’re likely to see this year will hobble in from June through September. Many will be songbird chicks and baby bunnies, but he also expects a couple dozen opossums and a few raccoons each month, plus or minus the occasional coyote pup. There are 320 different animal species in San Diego, so the team has to be ready to treat any of those animals when they come through the door.
The team triages every animal who comes in, and then it’s up to Enyart. He personally examines as many patients as he can and performs wound sutures, sets broken bones and wings, amputates limbs, administers painkillers and treats blunt force trauma from cars.
Compassion runs in Enyart’s family. During his own childhood in Kansas, his father would bring home sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals. There was an owl, numerous snakes and lizards, one raccoon and one skunk (you would need a license to care for these kinds of animals today). In his home, even spiders were transported outside with care. “He taught me the meaning of what it is to take care of animals. That instilled in me this respect for these animals, but also a passion to help them,” Enyart says.
Following Project Wildlife’s move to the new Pilar & Chuck Bahde Wildlife Center, Enyart hopes to pursue a greater number of complicated procedures, like using surgical screws and plates for fractured bones. “There’s a lot of heartache and tragedy that happens, but the positives of releasing them fat and happy after they’ve come in injured are so great.”