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Caring for animals, from small to grizzly-sized

Posted by scott.weybright | April 5, 2018

When it comes to interesting lines on a resume, stud manager for Wayne Newton tends to stand out.

Woodford crouches down and looks down at two cute bear cubs in a field of grass.
Nina Woodford with two young bear cubs in 2015. These two bears are much bigger now!

“It was an interesting job,” said Nina Woodford, director of WSU’s Office of the Campus Veterinarian (OCV). “I wanted to try horse breeding, so I lived near Las Vegas and worked on Wayne Newton’s horse ranch. I’m convinced I got into vet school because I had a good story about my job.”

After leaving Newton’s ranch, Woodford attended WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, then completed a residency in laboratory animal medicine at the University of Michigan. She returned to Pullman in 2001 to work for the OCV. In 2016, she took over as director, overseeing the health and welfare of every animal in the WSU system.

That ranges from the grizzly bears at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center to cows to rats and mice.

“I learn something new every day,” Woodford said. “And I’m the animal’s advocate. I hear about every animal health problem on campus. It’s rewarding to help set our researchers up for success by maintaining good preventative health programs, like vaccinations and clean facilities.”

The unique nature of the WSU Bear Center, the only research center in the world with grizzlies, is a highlight for her.

“Not many vets get to work with bears, so it’s a privilege,” Woodford said. “We know all their names and check in on them regularly. Sometimes daily when they’re in their active season.”

In addition to helping develop preventative health programs for the bears, Woodford and her staff help with sample collections, perform procedures, and decide on necessary treatments when an injury or illness occurs.

“We work very closely with the staff at the Bear Center,” Woodford said. “We visit regularly, we talk with them and keep open lines of communication, and we take our role as animal advocates seriously. And it’s working very well.”

Woodford is a native of San Francisco and has loved animals from an early age.

“I’ve always been an animal nut,” she said. “Growing up, we always had a variety of pets: turtles, rats, mice, dogs, cats, you name it. And now I live on a farm with my family, and we’ve got sheep, horses, donkeys. I even raise show chickens with my fifth grader.”

When it comes to caring for animals, Woodford has no limit. That’s good news for all of WSU’s animals, especially the bears.