MEET OUR STAFF!

While they might not be as exciting as our wildlife ambassadors, our education crew works hard to bring you quality programs, work with people in need of help with an injured animal, and more. Let's meet a few of them!

Meet Our Education Staff!

Heather Tuttle, Assistant Director and Director of Education

  • When did you start?

    • It all began in 2003 when I was 18 and found an injured rabbit which I brought to Back To The Wild. After volunteering all through college, I was offered a job! I had the great privilege and honor of getting to work side-by-side with our founder, Mona Rutger, for many years before health problems forced her to be less active in the day-to-day work. I wouldn't trade it for anything!​

  • What brought you to Back To The Wild?

    • I always loved animals growing up. However, as a kid, I imagined myself digging up prehistoric animals: dinosaurs! It wasn't until I started working with wildlife as a volunteer that I realized my true passion. It has been both the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I've done so far in my life.​

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • It is easy to say "working with the animals" but that's not completely true. While that has been an amazing privilege, one of the things I've discovered I love the most is my joy in working with children! Getting to introduce school kids to these amazing animals, seeing their eyes glow with interest, enthusiasm, and curiosity, there is nothing quite like it. Oh, and let's not forget all of the hilarious things that kids tend to say! We could write a book!​

  • What is the hardest part about working here?

    • While it's a lot more hard work and long, loooong hours than people think, the hardest part, for me, is knowing we can't help every animal. It is, unfortunately, something we all have to learn how to deal with.​

  • What is your most memorable moment working at Back To The Wild?

    • Over the last many years of work here, I've had some AMAZING and very memorable moments. It's so hard to pick one! But, if I have to, I would go with having the honor of releasing a snowy owl into the wild. While they may be common further North, they are a rare and special sight to us. Helping to free him from the human waste he was tangled in and, weeks later, getting to see him return to the wild blue skies he belongs to, it was a truly magical and wonderful experience.​

  • The question everyone is burning to know: what's your favorite animal?!

    • Whew! That is a tough question. I can only pick one? Well then, it must be the wolf. No, wait! Tigers? Ugh, this is hard. I am going to go with an Ohio native to make it a little easier. Here in Ohio, I have to say that I absolutely love our winter visitor, the Northern saw-whet owl! These incredibly tiny owls are not only adorable, they're also grumpy. Who doesn't love a small, cute, grumpy animal? They certainly don't love me back though...​

Sammie Villa, Staff Manager

  • When did you start?

    • I've been out here since way back in 2013! I started here as an intern getting credits for my Zoology major and just haven't left! Over the years, I've worked my way up from college intern to clinic worker to wildlife educator to manager!

  • What brought you to Back To The Wild?

    • I am originally from Connecticut so unfortunately, I didn't get to experience a classic Back To The Wild field trip as an elementary student. I wasn't introduced to Back To The Wild until my first trip to Sandusky with my boyfriend. On that visit, we made a stop out here for a tour! We loved every minute of the tour...thanks Libby!! As soon as I got back on campus, I started working on getting the papers together to do my internship out here. The  rest is history!

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • Whether it's teaching school kids about the size of a bald eagle nest, providing enrichment for our resident flying squirrels, or going out on a rescue to save a great blue heron tangled in fishing line, I know that I am making a positive impact every single time that I clock in. The best feeling in the world is knowing that you are making a difference.

  • What is the hardest part about working here?

    • Working in the COLD!!! I am a warm weather girl!

  • What is your most memorable moment working at Back To The Wild?

    • I have had so many lifetime moments here, it's so difficult to pick just one. However, I was lucky enough to be able to release a saw-whet owl a few years back. That little owl had so much fight in her whole 3.5 oz body, she could have fooled you into thinking she was a big, bad great-horned owl. The best reward for all the long hours of hard work we pour into each and every one of our rehab patients is to see them fly, run, or slither away from us as fast as they can!

  • The question Everyone is burning to know: what's your favorite animal?!

    • My favorite animal (since I was, I don't know, born!) is the manatee! How can you not love an animal who sleeps, floats, and eats all day long?!

Brittany Jordan, Animal Caretaker/Educator

  • How long have you worked here? 

    • I started in August, 2016

  • What brought you to Back to the Wild?

    • I have always known I wanted to work with animals. If you look in my elementary school yearbook, I am pretty sure that it says that my greatest ambition was to do “anything with animals” (and apparently my hobby was taking care of them). Eleven-year old me wasn’t picky about the method, just that I did!  But as you grow, things don’t always go as planned. After I graduated from college, I had a few jobs collecting fisheries data as both a groundfish observer and as a field technician. It was good for a while, but deep down it wasn’t what I really wanted to do so, I decided to do something about it. I took a chance and started a year-long apprenticeship with Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Texas and it there that my true passion for working with wildlife grew.  I loved the variety of animals I got to work with, the chaos of taking care of them all, seeing all the different cases and watching them get their second chance. I was always learning.  I fell in love with the rehab side of things and there was no going back after that, so when I was offered a job to work at Back to the Wild, I did not hesitate to pick up my things and move to Ohio so that I could do a job that I love.  

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • Just being able to make a difference in these animals lives, whether it is our permanent residents or our wildlife patients. I am continuously learning and striving to be better for them. It’s incredibly rewarding when an animal comes in and you are able to give that animal a second chance.

  • What is the hardest part about working here? 

    • Dealing with some of the heartbreaking cases. When an animal comes in with an injury or illness that’s too far gone, it can be upsetting, especially if it is due to something completely preventable.

  • What is your most memorable moment at Back to the Wild?

    • Probably the time we had to rescue a bald eagle in a kayak

  • The question everyone is burning to know…what’s your favorite animal?! 

    • Opossums <3  (though, red pandas are a close second!)

Mary Malerich, Animal Caretaker/Educator

  • How long have you worked here?

    • Since August of 2016. I moved to Ohio for this position and have not regretted it once.

  • What brought you to Back to the Wild?

    • I have always known I wanted to do something with animals. Like many young kids I thought that meant being a veterinarian. By the end of high school I had learned of zoo-keeping and exotic animal care so decided to pursue that route. I first learned of wildlife rehabilitation as a career while in college so decided to test it out. After graduating I jumped from internship to internship gaining a variety of different experiences, finally settling on wanting a mix of wildlife care and education. Back to the Wild seemed to have a good mix of both, and I was lucky enough to be hired on.

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • I love the variety of animals we have the opportunity to work with. Sure we receive our regulars such as red-tailed hawks, gulls, and squirrels, but it's always fun to guess what animal may be coming in for care. Sometimes they are something we rarely see!

  • What is the hardest part about working here?

    • The hardest part is knowing that although we wish we could, we cannot perform miracles. Sometimes animals come in with injuries or illnesses too severe for our medications to work and the best we can do is to give them as comfortable of a passing as possible.

  • What is your most memorable moment at Back to the Wild?

    • Last year I went on two rescues that will stick with me for a long time. The first was an eagle rescue, the second I had to use a kayak to rescue a great horned owl. Although the kayak rescue was an experience, I think the eagle rescue had a bigger impact on me. This was the first time I was leading a bald eagle rescue and we had a big open field with a patch of woods to deal with, on top of an eagle that could still move around well although not able to fly. As soon as she saw us she decided to make a run for it into the field, causing the three rescuers to spread thin. With a bit of patience and planning we worked to have her move back towards the woods, where I then had to break into a dead sprint into the trees in order to catch her. Wild animals do not know that we are trying to help them and this rescue could have easily gone in another direction. The fact this rescue was successful is one of my proudest moments.

  • The question everyone is burning to know…what’s your favorite animal?!

    • Whenever I get asked this question I like to say "it depends". My all-time favorite animal is the horse; they have been my favorite for as long as I can remember. My favorite exotic animal is the binturong (aka bearcat). My favorite ambassadors are our foxes. But, although I love those rare opportunities to rehabilitate fox kits, my favorite animals to rehabilitate are the young squirrels, especially red squirrels. I love watching them go from formula loving beggars to crazy adults who want nothing to do with humans and knowing we did our job right.

Lexi Beck, Animal Caretaker/Educator

  • How long have you worked here?

    • I have been at Back to the Wild since 2014. I first started off as a volunteer for one year, then was hired on full time the next year for the summer position. I sadly had to leave for a while to move away to attend college, but after I graduated with my degree in Veterinary Technology, I came back to pursue my love for working with animals!! 

  • What brought you to Back to the Wild?

    • I have  always been an outdoor person  and have loved every single animal since I can remember  My mother worked for the Ohio Division of Wildlife so I was always taught to love and respect nature and the animals living there. I remember when I was in elementary school, Mona, our founder, came out to teach us all about the native, and some non-native, wild animals. She also talked to us about how she took care of them to make sure they got a second chance at being wild again. Ever since, I have known that animals are my passion and I needed to help them because one day, they might need me as well. 

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • To me, the best part of working at Back to the Wild is being able to watch the progression of the animals and being able to release the ones that are completely healed again. Knowing what that animal first came in with, to finally seeing fly or scurry away is the best and most heartwarming feeling ever! It makes me feel that we ALL did a job well done as a team! 

  • What is the hardest part about working here?

    • On the contrary, it is hard to see the animals that will not be able to be released because their injuries made them permanently disabled. On the bright side, we are honored to keep them at our facility so they can help us teach everyone about that their species and to show how awesome they really are!

  • What is your most memorable moment at Back to the Wild?

    • My most memorable moment at Back to the Wild was being able to help a mom opossum and her 5 babies that were all hit by a car on accident. We were able to save her and all of her babies! They were all then able to be released a while later!

  • The question everyone is burning to know…what’s your favorite animal?!

    • There are so many awesome animals out in the world! Mine has to be between a red fox, a short-eared owl or a striped skunk! Hmm... I think I have to go with...  a striped skunk! They are just too stinkin' cute! 

Gabby Coley, Animal Caretaker/Educator

  • When did you start?

    • I was hired in September of 2018 but I got my start as a volunteer in the fall of 2015! I returned in the summer of 2017 to be an intern and decided that I really liked it. I continued to volunteer until I was hired.

  • What brought you to Back To The Wild?

    • When I was little, I knew that I wanted to work with wildlife, I would look through magazines of wild animals and I would ask my dad how they were able to get those pictures. My dad told me they were wildlife photographers, so, as a little girl, I would tell people that I wanted to be a wildlife photographer because that meant I could get close to wildlife. Fast forward years later, while in college, I started volunteering at Back To The Wild and fell in love with working with our native animals. I was fortunate enough to be hired on full-time a semester before finishing school.

  • What do you like best about working here?

    • I think the best part about working at Back to The Wild would be working so closely with the public. It's something I always Pictured myself doing. I really love seeing people make connections with the natural world and our native wildlife. Believe it or not, I really love answering questions that people didn't really know or understand about the wildlife in their very own backyard. Conservation is something that is so important for our natural world and it really is amazing to spark that interest in preserving it in the people I get to meet.

  • What is the hardest part about working here?

    • I would have to say winters are pretty hard for me. Mainly because I do thrive in the chaos as odd as that sounds, and I also hate the cold. I mean, who doesn't?! However, I have not experienced a full summer as a staff member yet so maybe I'm speaking a little too soon... I am pretty sure it'll be great though!

  • What is your most memorable moment working at Back To The Wild?

    • My most memorable moment so far I would have to say would be going on rescues. Because there are so little of us on staff at Back To The Wild, we don't always get the opportunity to actually go out on rescues as we rely on you guys to help us out a lot. However, when we do get to go out for a rescue, it's such a thrill to work with these animals and help them.

  • The question Everyone is burning to know: what's your favorite animal?!

    • Do I have to pick one because, I have a few?! I mean I really love snow leopards, red pandas, and snowy owls. Pretty much any animal that prefers the cold is a favorite of mine. I suppose I'll go with the snowy owl for this one since they do end up down here in Ohio for the winter some years. They are such amazing birds, and they really are so beautiful. Also, if you haven't seen a snowy owl's feet, you need to! They look like they're wearing fluffy slippers.

And that's not all! 

Here at Back To The Wild, we also have an amazing team of staff, interns, and volunteers that work behind the scenes. Without them, nothing would run very well.

Let's give them a hand...or a wing...or a talon? Thanks so much for all of your dedication and hard work!

Judi Robles: Seasonal/part-time clinic staff

Julie Rutger: Seasonal/part-time clinic staff and pro at getting breakfast together for our wildlife!

George Rosekelly: Maintenance...he helps keep the place looking great!

David Bauman: Part-time maintenance and carpenter/electrician/general knows-how-to-fix-anything person extraordinaire! 

David Ruff: Administrative assistant...he does all of that pesky math stuff for us.