Oregon State CVM Zoo, Wildlife, and Exotic Club


Dr. Ursula Bechert, DVM - Ursula Bechert earned a B.S. from Utah State University in 1985, and her D.V.M. from Oregon and Washington State Universities in 1991.  After working in private practice and an exotic wildlife park in Oregon for several years, she earned a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences.  Her research interests focus on reproductive physiology of endangered species, and include development of novel diagnostic and population management tools as well as nutritional and pharmacokinetic studies.  She has worked at Oregon State University (OSU) for over 13 years and is currently Director of Off-Campus Programs in the College of Science.  Ursula administers several Professional Science Master’s (PSM) programs on campus, leads a new statewide PSM development initiative, and explores international research and educational program opportunities for the College.  She has published over 40 papers in peer-reviewed journals, co-edited a wildlife medical book, and delivered numerous professional lectures at national and international conferences.  Ursula has served on or chaired several research review panels for the Science Foundation of Ireland, served as Chair of the OSU International Advisory Council, and is the Immediate Past President of the National Professional Science Master’s Association.   

Dr. Rob Bildfell, DVM received his DVM from the University of Guelph in 1985 and then practiced in southern Ontario for two years before entering a MSc. program at the University of Prince Edward Island. After completing this degree he obtained ACVP Board certification in anatomic pathology in 1993. Dr. Bildfell worked as a diagnostic pathologist at UPEI and at Guelph until 1998, when he joined the faculty at Oregon State University. He is the author of over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, many of them involving non-domestic species and camelids. He is a member of the AAWV and the WDA.

Dr. Mitch Finnegan, DVM – Dr. Finnegan graduated with his veterinary degree from UCDavis in 1990, followed by an internship in Zoo and Wildlife medicine at Kansas State University.  He then completed a residency in Zoo and Wildlife medicine at the University of Tennessee. After that time he came to the Oregon zoo and has never left!

Dr. Lisa Harrenstien, DVM, Dipl. ACZM -  received her Bachelor of Sciences in Zoology at Duke University in 1985. She graduated in 1990 from the College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University. After graduation she worked as a small-animal/exotics private practitioner in South Carolina and Florida until 1993.  During 1993-1994 she was a Clinical Intern in the Exotic Animal/Wildlife/Zoo Animal Medicine Service of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.  During 1994-1995 she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Pathology department of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, working with a variety of projects involving contraceptive use in zoo carnivores, reintroduction of red wolves into the Southeast, and disease surveillance in zoological species.  During 1995-1997 she was a Clinical Resident in the Zoological Medicine Service of the UCDavis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, and after the residency stayed on for one year as faculty with the Zoological Medicine Service.  Since 1999, Dr. Harrenstien has been a clinical veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon, where she is part of a 5-person veterinary team.  In 2005 Dr. Harrenstien became a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine. She is the veterinarian for the Species Survival Plan of the endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit. Dr. Harrenstien’s clinical interests include infectious diseases especially mycobacteriosis, and reproduction and contraception of nondomestic species. Despite years of professional life with exotic animals, her favorite animal is currently a black Labrador retriever named “Buddy”.

Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM, DABVP-Av -  is a 1980 graduate of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced avian and exotic companion animal medicine in the greater Puget Sound area for more than 25 years. Dr. Johnson-Delaney is board certified by the Am Bd of Vet Practitioners in Avian Practice and received the 2003 Exotic DVM of the Year Award. During her career, she has advanced the cause of exotic animal practice through her involvement with the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and the laboratory animal field. She is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on endocrine disease and multi-neoplastic syndrome in ferrets and she is deeply involved in continuing clinical research. She serves as Medical Director for the Washington Ferret Rescue & Shelter, consulting veterinarian for the Oregon Tiger Sanctuary and the Pacific Primate Sanctuary.

Dr. Daniel Lewer, DVM - I am a graduate of Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine and currently practicing in what I like to call “Extreme Mixed Animal Practice” out in Newport Oregon. I am a full time clinician practicing traditional mixed animal work at Animal Medical Care but also work as a contracting veterinarian at the Oregon Coast Aquarium where we treat all the marine mammals, avian, reptilian and aquatic species. I have been at these positions for the past two years and very much enjoy it. I have a non-traditional background where initially upon graduation from undergraduate school in Minnesota I came out to Newport to work at Hatfield Marine Science Center with the Marine Mammal Program for almost 3 years studying great whales across the world and marine mammal strandings locally. It was after this I went to veterinary school and during my training I spent time doing internships at Wildlife Safari, the Zurich Zoo, the Basal Zoo, the Oregon Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego. Once graduated I starting working for the practice in Newport and the Aquarium while also being involved in the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordination. Our most current project is the bay front sea lion trap where we have successfully been anesthetizing, treating and releasing the California sea lions that are entrapped in fishing gear. We maintain a very broad range of exotic animal patients and it isn’t uncommon to suture a sea lion in the morning, treat an anaconda before lunch, throw in 12-20 traditional patients and end the day with a pot belly pig or hamster.

 Dr. Hernan Montilla, DVM - was born in Puerto Rico completed his undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico. He graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University (St KittDVM from Ross University and completed his clinical year at Texas A&M. He completed an externship at the Indianapolis Zoo.  During his time there he helped train the dolphins to allow ultrasound exams. After graduation he worked in Massachussetts at a small animal clinic where he saw exotic and some zoo animals. Between his time in Massachussetts and Oregon, he spent time in Hawaii. Dr. Montilla started at Oregon State University as a theriogenology resident and since finishing this year he will be staying on as a professor at the veterinary teaching hospital. In his time off, Dr. Montilla enjoys water sports, sailing, and spending time with his girlfriend (Liz) and pets (Chio, Camo, and Aona).  


Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey - began working with exotic animals in zoos and aquariums in 1993 after graduating from Oregon State University. She currently cares for and trains marine mammals, large cats and bears at the Oregon Zoo. She also runs her own animal behavior and training consulting buisiness in the Portland Metro area where she teaches pet owners how to train their dogs. She also assistes owners in training their service dogs.


Dr. Craig Packer, PhD. - graduated from Stanford University in 1972 and completed his PhD at the University of Sussex in 1977. He studied non-human primates in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, off-and-on from 1972-2000, and has headed the Serengeti lion project since 1978. Dr. Packer currently has students working on lions in Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks as well as Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. In South Africa, he collaborates with Dr. Rob Slotow, University of Natal-Durban, and is involved in projects at Hluhluwe-Umfolozi and Pilanesberg Parks, as well as a number of private reserves. In addition to his lion work, Dr. Packer is the Principal Investigator of collaborative research projects in the Serengeti funded by the NSF program in the Ecology of Infectious Diseases and the NSF initiative on Biocomplexity.

Dr. Packer is currently Distinguished McKnight Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences earlier this year.


Dr. Leon Pielstick, DVM - attended Oregon State University for his undergraduate pre-veterinary degree. He graduated from Colorado State University's veterinary progeam in 1973 and began working as a mixed animal practitioner in Hermiston for two years. Following that he started a mixed animal practice in Burns which he sold out in 2008. At this point in time, Dr. Pielstick is doing some relief work along with his work with the wild horse contraception study. He also volunteers with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife performing bighorn sheep and mountain goat captures. He has worked with the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro program since 1975.


Dr. Brian Speer, DVM, DABVP-Av, ECAMS - was raised in a small town in California's central coast area. He received his baccalaureate of science degree in biological sciences with a concentration in zoology from California Polytechnic State University in 1978, and his DVM degree from the University of California at Davis in 1983. Since 1989, he has limited his practice in the San Francisco Bay area to include exclusively bird species, where his patients include companion and aviary birds, breeding bird collections, zoologic display collections, and performing animals. Brian received his board specialty status through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in February 1996, and was certified in the European College of Avian Medicine and Surgery in 1999. An active member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), he has served as chair of the Aviculture Committee, as a director of the board, and as president. He has served as Research Director for the American Ostrich Research Foundation, Veterinary Advisory Council for the American Federation of Aviculture, as a director for the Model Aviculture Plan, on the advisory board for the Advocates for Bird Conservation, and is currently an Avian Medicine folder editor for the Veterinary Information Network.

Brian is well published in the AAV annual proceedings, has served as guest editor for the journal Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, and authored chapters in several recent veterinary medical texts on pet bird, avicultural, and ratite medical topics. He is a co-author of the 530-page textbook, The Large Macaws, published in 1995, and Birds for Dummies, published in 1999. Brian is a sought-after guest speaker at veterinary seminars, avicultural conventions, and bird clubs throughout the United States and abroad.







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