Alumni Profile: Savannah, Animal Rescues and (Wolf)Puppy-Love

Savannah and her wolfdog, Mesa
If there is anyone who could give Dr. Doolittle a run for his money, it would be Savannah Spratt. Savannah, an attendee of the first-ever National Environmental Summit in 2011, has always known she wanted to work with animals. “For as long as I can remember, even when I was a kid, I always knew that was something I wanted to do.” Growing up, she was exposed to subjects of the environment constantly through her school’s own nature trail, natural history museum, and butterfly sanctuary. Throughout high school, she remained involved with her interests through environmental clubs and by volunteering at Friends of Animals, a local animal shelter. “I just feel like it was ingrained in me as a kid. And I was one of the few kids from that school who became really interested and kept up with that sort of thing. […] I was always keeping myself busy trying to be a biologist and an activist for as long as I can remember.”

In 2011, Savannah attended the Summit and joined Dr. Joe Poston’s focus group A Backbone for Conservation, a vertebrate tracking group with which she caught turtles in the Center’s preserve, attached video-trackers to the turtles, and learned how to track them using GPS and radio-trackers. It was her favorite part of the Summit, and as a whole, she enjoyed the experience so much that she returned the next summer, this time joining Dr. Jay Bolin’s focus group Invasive Species: Friend or Foe of the Environment?

She knew she wanted to work with animals in her future career, but she didn’t quite know what she wanted to do with them. The project she did that second year however helped give her some sense of direction. “With the focus groups, they had us narrow in on something, and I really had fun with the invasives project.” She says, “We captured some native clams and some invasive clams and did filtration studies on both of them and it turns out the invasive clam was more efficient at filtrating, and I just thought that was so interesting. So during college, I did an internship and I was looking for stuff sort of like that.”

She ended up interning as an assistant park ranger at South Mountain State Park, a position in which she helped with the removal of harmful invasive species as well as with outreach and education efforts for the public.

After graduating high school, Savannah pursued a degree in Biology from Mars Hill University, with a concentration in Ecology and a minor in Environmental Studies. She found that participating in the Summit’s tracking project as a teenager gave her an edge later when taking a course in college on Geographic Information Systems Mapping (or GIS), which used GPS as an introduction to GIS technology. Her experience also helped her when she took part in an invasive species project as part of her Environmental Studies minor. “I feel like it was really good for me because it made me feel like I already knew what I was talking about. It made it easier for me, I guess.”

Throughout her college years, she also remained close to animals by engaging in volunteer work at the Full Moon Farm, a wolfdog sanctuary in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She has worked with them for four years, and actually has a foster wolfdog of her own named Mesa. “I think I really want to focus on animal rescue and wildlife rehab.” She says, “But also sustainability…there’s still so much I want to do.” 

“A lot of people don’t really know how to handle these dogs; you know, they still have the wolf in them. They don’t understand them- they think they’re going to be these awesome, cool-looking pets and then they don’t know how to handle them, but they can’t go to regular pet shelters because of what they are.”  Picture by Savannah Spratt.   

Upon her graduation from Mars Hill, she began working at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, a local animal shelter housing mostly dogs and cats. She speaks about her work with animals with sweetness and excitement. “We also take in small animals like guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits. We even had two parakeets; we take in turtles. And now we’re opening up a sanctuary where we rescue pigs and cows from meat farms.” 

She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College and continues to work with the wolfdogs at Full Moon Farm. She is also pursuing her wildlife rescue license, after which she hopes to begin working with Appalachian Wildlife Refuge to provide foster care and rehabilitation to weak and wounded wildlife.

To teenagers thinking about the possibility of joining this year’s Summit, she says: “I just think that it’s a really good experience; I would encourage anybody to do it. I mean, I went twice because I had so much fun the first time. It’s like- you get out, you get dirty and you get muddy, and you have fun, and you hang out outside with a lot of people, but it’s also like… crafting. Getting together with a group of people [and] having fun [while] learning, which is the best way to learn.” And I feel like they did a really good job coming up with ways to accommodate for everybody’s needs. They had all sorts of food options for everybody. I thought it was really great.

We all had groups, we hung out together, I think we became close over the week, or two weeks, that we were there. It was a lot of fun and I hated to leave and I know everyone else did too. It was really awesome.”


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