Couple Shares Care-Taking Career

By Jenna Nielsen
WEIMAR, CA--Gabe and Barbie Kerschner don’t have the average household pets in their backyard.

A walk through the couple’s Weimar compound will reveal Mountain Lions, baboons, a kangaroo, 100-pound python and even a Beaver. The animals, which the couple love and care for as pets, find a temporary home at their ranch and nonprofit wildlife rescue center, Wild Things, Inc. The couple also names the animals, provides them with shelter and feeds them.

“We do get really attached–you can’t help it,” Gabe Kerschner said during an interview this week. “There are also a lot of stress-related issues that come along with the job. It is bittersweet because in a sense you are keeping the animals in the very place you don’t think they should be, but the alternative is much worse.”

First opened in 1987, Wild Things has become the home to injured wild animals or animals that individuals have tried to keep as illegal pets.

The Kerschners also travel to schools all over Northern California and parts of Nevada to educate hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren each year with a message of conservation and appreciation for natural wonders.

“Our hope is that by sharing these animals with the future generations and by hearing their stories, students will gain a greater appreciation for the natural environment and will be more likely to have an environmental conscience and make decisions that will benefit the Earth,” Gabe Kerschner said.

Barbie Kerschner shares her husband’s enthusiasm.

“It is really nice to be able to visit the kids in Auburn but the experiences for inner city children are just tremendous – a lot of these children have never seen a raccoon or an eagle fly over head,” Barbie Kerschner said.

Most of the animals come to Wild Things through the California Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are housed at Wild Things until a better facility becomes available.

Barbie Kerschner, whose early ambitions were to train whales at Sea World, said she and her husband decided to pursue Wild Things after their studying exotic animal training and management in college.

“We saw the school getting inundated with calls from people who had wild animals in need of a home,” Barbie Kerschner said. “We coupled that with our want to share the animals with children and it just went from there.”

Though taking care of their “pets” is a rewarding experience in itself, the couple agrees the best part of their job is sharing the animals with children.

“What good are these animals here if we don’t share nature’s wonders with children?” Barbie Kerschner said. “Sharing the animals with the children is just an incredible experience.”-– Auburn Journal