Carol Holmgren, CPBT-KA, is licensed wildlife rehabilitator and executive director of Tamarack Wildlife Center (TWC). Serving northwest Pennsylvania, TWC embraces the twin mission of treating injured wildlife in order to enable their return to the wild, and promoting appreciation and understanding of wildlife through education.
As director of Tamarack Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation and education center serving northwest PA, a highlight of my job is to oversee the training and health of eight ambassador raptors. I am a long time member of IAATE, use operant conditioning, and strive to stay abreast of current best practices for handling raptors. I decided to pursue becoming certified because it would give me the incentive to read or re-read texts and articles pertaining to learning, behavior and educational use of raptors and to reflect on areas we can improve. Additionally, certification is a way to communicate to others the professionalism our center brings to working with our ambassador raptors and our concern for their quality of life.
Signing up to take the test in spring was strategic: I would have winter evenings during rehabilitation’s slow season to read and study. While I expected I could probably pass the test without study, I wanted the opportunity to review and reflect on the literature. Having a test scheduled motivated me to keep on track with the readings, but the readings were intrinsically rewarding as well, since they were focused on topics of personal and professional interest.
If you choose to pursue certification, know that you are not in this alone! There is a community to support you! I was the only person at my center doing testing, but those in the IATCB community loaned me books and discussed their study notes, so I could compare my “take aways” with theirs. I also talked about the concepts I was learning/reviewing with those at my center. Some articles from the reading list have become mandatory reading for all our volunteers who handle ambassador raptors.
Let the process of studying impact you! A few of the “take aways” that are staying with me: 1. Good training isn’t just for birds. I strive to set everyone up for success: staff, spouse, myself… 2. When training is stalling out, look at the rate of reinforcement. It probably needs to be increased. 3. Splitting may be needed. Ie. I may need to split the desired behavior into smaller steps or approximations. A side benefit is that this helps increase the rate of reinforcement! 4. A motivator has to be something valued by the individual involved. These four points are good to keep in mind in our daily lives as well as with birds.
In this time of COVID, our usual antecedents are definitely lacking, some of our favorite motivators may not be available to us, and some tasks can seem overwhelming. When that occurs, consider how you can set yourself up for success, break your task into smaller steps and then enjoy a reward. Ice cream anyone? How about a walk outside? Hot bath?
For those unemployed due to COVID, studying as if you were going to test may be enlivening, whether or not you sign up to take the exam. While my center did not pay for my certification cost, going forward we will support staff who want to pursue testing. In this time of COVID, when many conferences are not being held in person, certification can be a great way for our center to support professional development.
We would love to highlight you or your facility in our newsletter and on our Facebook page. Let us know the amazing things that you are doing to help raise the bar! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Want to find out more about setting these types of standards within your facility or becoming certified? Contact the IATCB board by visiting our website!
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2021 Testing Dates
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The CPBT-KA and CPAT-KA credential is valid for 5 years from the date it is awarded. To renew the credential a certificant must either re-take the examination after 5 years or accumulate sixty Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) by attending IATCB approved workshops, seminars, classes, or conferences. Head over to here to check out a list of approved CEUs!
HERO RATS LEARN TO SAVE PANGOLINS; By Stephanie Carnow
Arwen’s whiskers fluttered vigorously as she gobbled down a mouthful of banana—her reward for a job well done. To accommodate her misshapen left ear, she was fitted with a new candy apple red vest and was now showing real promise in her training. Like all African giant pouched rats, Arwen’s highly developed sense of smell can rival even a bloodhound; she is learning to use her powerful nose to distinguish specific scents. If successful, Arwen will join a new cohort of APOPO’s aptly named “HeroRATs,” who are using their olfactory super powers to fight wildlife crime. Read More…
Moose; Alces americanus
Moose are found throughout northern North America. They occur throughout Alaska, Canada, the northeastern United States and as far south as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. They are generally found near streams or ponds where there are willows. Moose generally live in forested areas where there is snow cover in the winter, and prefer moist conditions where there are lakes, ponds, and swamps. Moose are the largest members of the deer family and one of the largest land mammals in North America. Males are larger than females and possess elaborate, widened antlers that can measure up to 2 meters in total width, from tip to tip. These are the largest antlers carried by any mammal, worldwide. They are shed and re-grown annually. Moose are active throughout the day with activity peaks during dawn and dusk. Moose are good swimmers, able to sustain a speed of 6 miles an hour. Moose mainly stay in the same general area, though some populations migrate between sites favorable at different times of the year. Moose have poor sight but their hearing and sense of smell are excellent. Their large ears can be rotated 180 degrees and their keen noses find food below deep snow. Their vision seems to serve them best to detect moving objects. This species is listed as Least Concern by IUCN as it is still very widespread and extremely abundant despite fairly intense hunting pressures in parts of its range. It is expanding its range in places and it thrives in secondary habitat.
The International Avian Trainers Certification Board and the International Animal Trainers Certification Board, IATCB, offers you a way to gain professional credibility, increase your earnings potential, and advance your career. We live in a competitive world, and animal trainers are no different than anyone else looking for advanced knowledge and skill in their profession. IATCB endorses voluntary certification by examination for all professionals involved with animals, including trainers, educators, handlers, veterinarians, and all others involved in the care and handling of animals.