Michela Dunbar

22
Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator

Tell us about yourself, your history and how you came to be where you are now. 
I started off as an intern at a wildlife rehabilitation center when I was 18, where I developed my skills and became an Animal Care Supervisor. I also met my boyfriend, Tallon Nightwalker, who furthered my experiences and introduced me to the field rescue side of wildlife rehabilitation. Now, I’m the Rescue Coordinator for Northern Colorado Wildlife Center, and it is absolutely my dream job!  

What are you passionate about professionally and personally, and why? 
I love working with my hands, be it rescuing an animal, building an enclosure or just fixing something up. I enjoy the adrenaline of hopping on a paddle board to catch a pelican, or climbing a tree to reunite a squirrel, or tying off my rope to descend into a cistern for some salamanders. Of course, the passion lies with the animals as well, but I just adore hands-on experiences.  

What is your superpower? 
I think that my superpower is speaking up for the voiceless. Wild animals can’t tell us how they’re hurt or what they’re feeling. It’s important for me to be able to assess and understand animals to advocate for their care and needs. I love being able to watch those animals grow and heal under my supervision and direction. It gives me such a sense of connection!  

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment, either professionally or personally? 
I believe my biggest accomplishment is finding my purpose so early. I truly am happy with what I’m able to do, and even though there’s always going to be difficult times, I’m so proud of myself every single day. I’m helping people and I’m helping animals, and I couldn’t be happier.  

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? 
The person that has had the biggest impact on my life, both professionally and personally, is Tallon. He has taught me so much about respect, love and teamwork. Tallon is such a great partner in the field and in life, and he has so much experience to share. I’m so grateful for his support and guidance through our professional field and our personal lives.  

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? 
In five years, I’m hoping that we have a facility that has space for at least a couple hundred animals. I see having a place to bring the animals that I rescue in the field that can provide them with long-term care. Five years from then, I hope we are established and can educate the community and provide opportunities to as many people and animals as possible.  

What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? 
The biggest piece of advice I’d give my 18-year-old self is trust yourself. When I was applying for college, I thought I was going to go into psychology. I felt pressured by friends and family to go into a job that “made some money.” But I always knew that what really brought my happiness was working hands on, outside. I’m so glad I trusted myself, and I would want my younger self to know that.  

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? 
I don’t have a whole lot of downtime, especially during the spring and summer months, but I try my best to get recreational time outside. I love water: lakes, rivers, waterfalls. Paddle boarding is one of my favorite activities. I also recently went rafting, and that was certainly an activity I’m going to participate in again. Anything in the mountains gives me such a relaxed feeling.  

What would you like to give back to your community? 
I love being able to provide the community with rescue and education services. Showing someone that the bull snake they were so scared of is just a sweet noodle or helping someone to save the baby bunny that fell into their window well–I love teaching people about animals and seeing their fascination blossom. Helping people to understand what I’ve dedicated my life to is such an incredible feeling.