Every year, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Banner Elk admits over 1,500 injured or orphaned wild animals. No matter the species, the center’s staff cares for abandoned and injured creatures, as well as those requiring surgical or rehabilitative treatments. Every animal admitted to the center undergoes a thorough examination before staff create an individualized treatment plan.

The center is located on the campus of Lees-McRae College, adjacent to the nearby Elk River. Under the supervision of director Nina Fischesser and veterinarian Dr. Amber McNamara, college students help provide care to the injured animals. The hands-on learning experience teaches students all aspects of wildlife rehabilitation. It also trains them to become mentors to younger students.

Throughout the experience, students engage in numerous experiential opportunities. In addition to assisting with patient assessment, administering medication and managing habitats, they also help with wound care, physical therapy, assisting in surgical procedures, and more. At the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, students are an integral part of realizing the center’s mission: the rehabilitation and release of wildlife patients, and public education on the value of wild animals in our ecosystem.


Originally founded in 1995 as the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute, the center moved to Lees-McRae College in 2003. However, the college’s growth in wildlife biology and rehabilitation programs prompted a need for larger facilities. In addition to bigger lecture spaces, animal care units also became a necessity. Support from the May family allowed for a new facility in 2012, aptly named the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

In line with state and federal rehabilitation and education guidelines, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is licensed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The center follows rehabilitation standards established by both the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.