Local youth had the opportunity to learn about wild animal care and protection during a presentation by the Medicine River Wildlife Centre at the Eckville Municipal Library last Wednesday.
Stephanie Kelly, an educator with the wildlife centre, said education is the most important thing anyone can do to help wild animals.
“The [animal] hospital is really only a band-aid solution if you don’t educate the public,” said Kelly. “We need to educate the younger generation on protecting and respecting wildlife.”
Kelly has spoken in schools and communities to help educate the public about wildlife rehabilitation. During her presentation at the library, she showed pictures of injured and orphaned animals the centre has treated over the years and explained how they helped them. Orphaned animals, if they had not become used to humans, received a “foster parent,” either in the wild or at the centre. This way, the animals learned important survival skills they could not have learned from humans.
Kelly also discussed things that can be harmful to wild animals, including excessive development, litter, cars and windows.
“Windows are quite detrimental to little songbirds,” said Kelly. She added that streamers hung outside a window can be helpful, because as they blow in the wind they break up the window’s reflection.
Cats are also a danger to birds, said Kelly. She suggested keeping them inside, or building an enclosed outdoor cat run.
At the end of the presentation, Kelly brought out Otis, a Great Horned Owl, who the centre uses as an educational animal. Kelly said Otis imprinted on humans when he was young, and has always been cooperative with people. However, she does not allow anyone to touch him, because he goes to so many public presentations.
Kelly said one of her most memorable presentations with Otis was at a school, when he produced a pellet in front of the audience.
A pellet is the undigestible parts of an animal the owl had previously eaten. There was a gasp, Kelly said, but she explained what had happened and how fortunate they had been to witness it.
Baillie Burns, 11, attended the presentation. Though it was her second time seeing it, she said she enjoyed it because it refreshed her memory. She thinks it’s important to take care of wild animals.
“They need the same respect as any other animal.”
Carol Griner, the Eckville library manager, had arranged for Kelly to speak at the library. She decided to organize it after speaking with those attending the library’s Summer Reading Club, when someone had expressed interest in learning about injured animals.
“It’s important to keep our kids coming to the library and reading,” said Griner, adding that she thinks having different speakers can help.
The Summer Reading Club runs from July 3 – August 18 from 1-3 pm every Wednesday. It’s open to ages three and over.