Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to bettering our environment through wild animal care and raising awareness in our community about the importance of wild animals. Serving Central Virginia at our modern facility in Nelson County, our wildlife rehabilitators and volunteers rescue and care for more than 600 wild animals annually. We also lead educational programming that stresses the value of wild animals and balanced ecosystems in schools and community centers. The combination of care and education constitutes our commitment to a vibrant and compassionate future for wild animals.
Rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned native wildlife in Central Virginia and release them back into the wild;
Inform our fellow citizens about what to do when they find an injured or orphaned wild animal, and who to contact for help with the animal; and,
Educate the citizens of Central Virginia about the habitats and needs of native wildlife.
Like many wildlife rehabilitation stories, ours begins with one big-hearted person. Nathou Attinger began caring for native Virginia wildlife in her home in Nelson County in the early 2000s.
Nathou founded Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS) after observing how Central Virginia had many dedicated rehabilitators working individually, but there was a growing need for expertise and a dedicated organization to better serve our area’s animals.
With the help of a matching grant and a large effort by individual donors, RWS was able to move out of Nathou’s house and into a newly constructed building with lots of quiet land for animal enclosures.
29 enclosures that have housed more than 1200 animals.
As RWS moves forward, we hope to not only help animals currently in need, but to help inform the public about why these animals are a vital part of our vibrant landscape.
Nathou Attinger’s great love has always been non-human animals. With a BA from UVA, Nathou has owned a landscaping company for 29 years, and currently shares her home with four dogs, three cats, one cockatoo, and a bunch of chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and doves…and her partner! Starting RWS 20 years ago allowed Nathou to care for even more animals, and thus far it has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Nathou holds a category IIB permit to rehabilitate wildlife and train other rehabbers, as well as a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that allows rws to rehabilitate migratory birds.
Madeline Zimmer, category IIA, has been training to be a wildlife rehabber at Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary since 2014. Her interest began as a volunteer, although she has had a fondness for animals throughout her life. Madeline’s favorite aspect of wildlife rehabilitation is the release process and among her favorite animals that pass through rws are Pileated Woodpeckers, Canada Geese, and owls. She particularly enjoys her work here because of the connectedness to nature it provides.
Sarah Cooperman, Category IV wildlife rehabilitator, has loved animals her whole life and would try to coax deer into her house as a child when her parents weren’t looking. After graduating Williams College in 2017 with a degree in biology and environmental studies, Sarah spent last year studying perceptions of bats in other countries thanks to a travel fellowship. In Australia, she was inspired by the wildlife rehabilitators she met who used rescued flying foxes as education ambassadors, and she is excited to now start her own journey as a wildlife rehabilitator at RWS. While bats hold a special place in her heart, Sarah is enthusiastic about getting to know a wide variety of local Virginian wildlife in such a lovely natural setting.
Julia Minnerly, Category IV wildlife rehabilitator, has been an animal lover her whole life. From taking care of kitty litters as a young child to volunteering at the ASPCA in high school, she has always enjoyed providing care and attention to all critters. As well as her work at RWS, she has a local network of house&pet sitting clients. After a career in managing coffee shops, Julia most enjoys learning more and more about animal behaviors in a peaceful outdoor setting. From feeding baby squirrels to hawks and owls, she loves interacting with all the different personalities of wildlife.
Nathou Attinger, Founder&VP
Beverley Butler, President
Kaki Dimock, Treasurer
Liz Courain, Secretary
Lia Harper Pepper
ANIMAL CARE VOLUNTEERS
Anne Marie Saunders
Buzz Van Santvoord
ADDITIONAL RWS SUPERHEROES