Animal Advocate: Sacramento woman is passionate about rescuing nature’s creatures | News

For Sacramento resident Nikki Christian, caring for animals has always been a part of her life.

“I think I was just born with it,” she said. “I think God created me for this reason.”

Around the age of 8 or 9, Christian, 44, cared for her first animals – a group of raccoons who couldn’t find their mother.

From there, word spread that Christian was the go-to person for helping animals in need.

“It just seemed like if someone found something injured or orphaned, they would call me, even when I was a kid,” Christian said. “It didn’t matter if it was wild animals, domestic animals, snakes, turtles – people were kind of looking for me.”

At the time, Christian said the state didn’t require a license to rehabilitate animals and that she had the help of her grandfather, who had his own experience with animals.

After graduating from McLean County High School, Christian went to Western Kentucky University to earn a degree to become a veterinarian, but turned to nursing after discovering the extra schooling required for to be a veterinarian.

While she did as much rehab as she could, her nursing took over when she started working three 12-hour shifts at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. She could only focus on injured animals, while baby animals were assisted by local rehabilitators whom Christian knew well.

“Me and the other rehabbers work really well together,” Christian said.

Christian got his start in intensive care nursing and open-heart recovery. She currently works as a nurse in the operating room.

“Being a nurse has really helped me because I’m able to do so much more, especially with medications and stuff, that I couldn’t when I was a kid,” Christian said.

But Christian still found the time and passion for animals and about 10 years ago became a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Certified Animal Rehabilitator, helping to “rescue, raise, and arrange for veterinary medical care of orphaned, sick, displaced or injured native wildlife with the prudent goal of releasing wildlife into their natural habitat.

Her career as a rehabilitator was eventually noticed by the Nat Geo Wild TV channel, and she became one of the featured animal rehabilitators on the second season of “Bandit Patrol” in 2017, after the show had had success with a fellow rehabilitator in Henderson.

At first, Christian gave up on this opportunity due to time constraints regarding his nursing career.

But it was when Christian’s friend and coworker, Kristin Allen of Owensboro, asked Christian to release squirrels on her property that the show’s staff were eager to involve Christian in any way they could after was impressed with how Christian appeared on camera.

“They filmed me, and within an hour…Nat Geo Wild called me and…said, ‘We want you on the show,’ and I said, ‘I can’t. not do it,’ and she said, ‘No. We’ll just take the days you’re away,'” Christian said.

Christian used the newfound popularity wisely.

“My biggest thing is education, so I got to do a lot of education on that…and one of the things they showed me was saving a turtle; always take the turtle in the direction it was going. Christian said.

The experience helped Christian show the public the importance of wildlife while having a platform to reject stereotypes about certain animals.

“Possums and bats – they have such a bad reputation, and I was able to continue there and I was able to highlight the positives and what they do good for us,” said Christian. “Animals don’t have voices, and I was able to be a voice for those animals.”

Since appearing on the show, Christian has been just as dedicated.

During COVID in 2020, Christian said she received a number of calls due to many people being stuck inside their homes or out in the wild.

“We’ve had more calls in this first year of COVID than I’ve had in three years,” Christian said. “Everyone was at home, everyone was walking around in the garden and stuff like that.”

When the operating room closed during COVID, Christian said she may have been the source of entertainment for her hospital peers when they held virtual education classes together while Christian hosted new creatures at home.

“I was literally doing Zoom classes to feed the animals. So you have like six people on screen going, “Oh my god, what do you have now?” What are you feeding?!’ Christian laughs. “(I was) doing all these Zoom classes with these animals crawling all over me.”

Last year, Christian had to care for 47 baby opossums at a time, and in recent months she’s seen an increase in more exotic pets, like hosting an alligator for about three weeks in her living room. .

And just two weeks ago, Christian helped rescue a bald eagle from a backyard in Calhoun, which captured national attention. She provided the bird with fluids, steroids and a home before transferring it to the Western Kentucky Raptor Center in Owensboro.

The attention has come as a surprise to Christian, who said he has rescued four to five eagles in the past.

“I don’t understand (that), but it’s fine with me,” Christian said.

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