WILDERNESS LIFEGUARD SAVES ANIMALS’ LIVES TOO
On a typical work day you will find Darin Kuhnke, a Wilderness Resort aquatics manager, working on staff schedules, overseeing waterpark operations, finding reasons that make employees happy to come to work, and providing exceptional customer service. However, what many guests don’t realize is that he also wears a different “hat” at the Resort. Kuhnke has become recognized as the official animal rescuer for wild life that is found to be struggling for one reason or another at the Resort.
Kuhnke, an avid outdoorsman, trapper, hunter and bee keeper, first stepped into his alternative role as animal rescuer almost a decade ago when a raccoon had made its way up a waterslide tower and needed to be retrieved. He volunteered to go up the tower, help the raccoon down and got him safely back into the woods where he belonged.
Since then, a couple of times a year, Kuhnke finds himself getting the call about animals at the Resort who are either where they don’t belong or are injured and in need of help. He has rescued fawns, porcupines, and endangered bats, relocated a den of baby foxes, saved trapped ducklings from sewer grates and given snapping turtles who have been hit by cars or wandered where they shouldn’t be a second chance at survival. He also has plans for a honey bee removal on property later this fall.
His most recent rescue was a one-winged goose that was struggling in the resort’s Wilderland park area. After a bit of coaxing, Kuhnke and a co-worker were able to capture the goose, who they named “Lucky.” Kuhnke took him to the Sauk County Humane Society who transported him to the Dane County Humane Society who has an injured wild life division. Once the vets there were sure the goose was ok, they found him a new home at the Ochsner Park Zoo where he can live in a protected environment. Kuhnke, his wife and children ages 6 and 3, recently went to visit him and said it was great to see him doing so well in his new environment. He was also pleasantly surprised that Lucky the goose got to keep his new name.
When you ask Kuhnke why he has embraced this additional role for the resort, his response is simple. “I really enjoy my day-to-day job, I work with some of the best people around and we all have a great time at work. The fact that the Wilderness embraces good deeds for the better of the environment and community is amazing. I love that the Wilderness owners know my passion for wildlife and have sort of incorporated that into my position. Nobody wants to see animals struggle, and I’m thrilled that I’m able to help animals, and at the same time keep guests and employees safe by being the onsite “game keeper.” Wildlife ecology has always been a passion of mine, and I’m fascinated by the natural world. Perhaps that’s why I fit in so well at the Wilderness.”