Campus Closeup: Gloria Urban
As a criminal justice professor, Gloria Urban is familiar with the term rehabilitation in the context of efforts to reduce the number of repeat offenders by giving them the tools to make a more effective transition from prison back into society. But she is especially passionate about another form of rehabilitation involving mammals of the four-legged variety.
Urban helps to care for orphaned or injured animals so they can return to the wild. She specializes in raccoons, red fox and coyotes, but has taken in others as needed. She began the hobby in 2000 at the encouragement of her best friend, who has since left the area. Urban's base of operation is a 30-acre parcel she calls Echo Woods near Skandia.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of cost, but I don’t have any children and I could be putting my money into worse things,” she said. “I’ve always had a deep love for animals that I got from my mother. I’m the only licensed rehabber in Marquette County now. We need more, so we’re forming U.P. Wildlife Rehabilitation, a not-for-profit association of people who have valid permits. As an association, we can work on fundraising together. I’m coordinating the effort, which will kick off April 1.”
To become licensed, individuals have to complete a required course and be inspected by the DNR. Urban said the DNR is referring all relevant wildlife-related calls to rehabbers for the first time this year. Other referrals come from central dispatch, the U.P. Animal Welfare Shelter or veterinarians, but most of her activity begins with direct contact from the public.
“We’re on the Internet and some people find us there when they do a search. Most of what I deal with are orphans. Someone might kill a raccoon that’s been going in their garage and then they discover later that she had babies. Or mothers are hit by cars on the road and someone finds her babies around the carcass. We discourage people from picking up babies they find in the woods because they could be creating orphans instead of saving them. The moms are nocturnal, so it’s not uncommon for wildlife babies to be left alone for periods of time, especially during the day.”
Urban averages about 35 cases per year, though not all survive. The most recent involved a raccoon that got caught in a foothole trap someone set in downtown Ishpeming. After about four weeks of rest and recuperation, the animal was successfully released. Urban’s position at NMU helps to finance her work as a rehabber. It also offers the ideal schedule. She doesn’t teach during the summer, so she can devote plenty of attention to her hobby during the peak wildlife season.
“Right when school’s getting out, the animals start arriving. Then when school starts up again in the fall, my attention turns to guiding NMU students through the academic year. I find that I’m maternal and protective toward them as well. Interacting with students in the classroom gives me great joy. I will never be an online learning technologist. I like the human-to-human aspect of teaching.”
A native of southern Illinois, Urban earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology before working as an investigator with a public defender’s office. She also ran a licensed private detective agency and a missing children’s program for the Illinois State Police. Urban returned to school to earn her doctorate, which combined the two fields and evolved into forensic psychology. The field covers such topics as criminal personality profiling, the insanity defense and hypnosis for witnesses.
“My family used to go to the U.P. on vacation and when the job opened up at Northern right after I graduated, I came here because I knew I loved the area. That was 21 years ago.”
Urban teaches in the areas of judicial function, criminology and forensic psychology, among others. She is eligible to retire now, but plans to wait a few years and then perhaps turn wildlife rehabilitation into a full-time hobby.