Students have gone home. Faculty and staff are no longer required to work from their offices on campus. Administration works from home. But one group has not left campus. Wildlife continues to roam the woods at all times of the day, through every season and all human crises. Despite their visitors being gone, the animal inhabitants of Whitehouse Nature Center have no knowledge of the current pandemic.
Jason Raddatz, director of the Whitehouse Nature Center, has been on site every day since the campus population left, checking in on the trails and animals and making sure everything is taken care of.
The trails are available for public use daily during the regular hours, and animals are still being cared for with both social and enrichment activities occurring. Since everyone is responsible for their own social distancing, social distancing has become the norm among visitors, and the nature center’s trails are mostly groomed to accommodate them.
As the director, Raddatz is in charge of the nature center’s upkeep while no one is around to help. During the school year, he hires students to help, but he is currently working alone.
The animals require feeding, cleaning and socialization. The trails need to be maintained so that people who are still around can walk through safely.
“The college (and I) considered the upkeep of the Nature Center and well-being of the animals essential to college operations,” said Raddatz over email. “I am considered an essential worker and am on-site every day.”
Whitehouse Nature Center’s Facebook page includes updates and videos of interactions and activities that occur at the nature center.