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our wildlife center fund-raising event.

September 19, 2009

Our annual fund-raising event at the wildlife center went rather well.

The place is set up so that most of the animals we have are in enclosures behind wooden fences and gates, and our treatment areas are inside the main building. The public is not allowed inside the gates or most of the main building due to fish and game regulations. You have to work there to go back there. This event was a chance to let the public see some of our animals. We brought our tame animals outside the front gates.

In the main building, we  have a small lobby where we do intake – we have a computer, and some forms, and that is where we meet people who bring in the animals that need our help. Inside the lobby on display, there is an albino scrub jay, 2 snakes in 2 tanks, and usually a tame crow in his cage. However, with hundreds of people walking in and out of the lobby during our event, we don’t have the crow on display because his feathers never grew in right, and also he bends his head down as an invitation to be petted, and we don’t want lots of people reaching in his cage, so he was temporarily moved to one of the back rooms.

Two of the 3 owls were moved indoors to small cages so we could take them in and out more easily, and put them back into their larger cages later.

The event started at 10 am. I came yesterday in the afternoon to help set up large awnings and canopies and tables. Staff who liked getting up early came in before 10 am today to do more setting up. We had 2 slushie machines, bbq tri tip and hot dogs, a booth for face painting, a booth for the local Humane Society chapter, and one for river conservation. There were also areas where baked goods, t-shirts, and crafts were sold. Kids could have their faces painted, see animals, and dissect owl pellets. Owl pellets look like poop, but are really spit up by the owls, because they cannot digest fur and bone.

The owl pellets were bought from a science supply company, and were sterilized. I have no idea how. I was told the kids really liked cutting up the owl pellets to see the remains of eaten critters. Kids like gross things.

When I arrived, I was put on parking duty for almost an hour – handing out parking permits and instruction forms on how to safely capture and bring in hurt or baby animals.

I then got started on what I mostly came to the center to do today, which was help out with the animal demonstrations. I was happy to be the assistant and not do the talking. I left that up to the lady who brings the animals around to the schools and does nature talks. I’ve never seen her do a full presentation with all the educational animals.  I suppose I’d have to be at an elementary school to see one of her presentations, or at a camp somewhere.

For one talk at the center today, she held a great horned owl and I held the barn owl. The barn owl got quite stressed out, so I put him back in an indoor cage where he could calm down and cool off. I don’t know why he’s more agitated than he used to be two years ago when I last worked at the center. I don’t know if anybody knows. After I brought him inside, he calmed right down and was happy. He makes certain noises when he’s happy.

Barn owls hiss, but there are different types of hisses. Some louder, stronger sounding hisses are intended to be menacing, and when they attack prey or are really mad, they scream – a deafening, blood curdling sound. They can also make a quieter, shorter hiss. That is a sign of feeling alright – even saying hello. The one we have also makes a cricket-like chirping sound when he’s happy or curious. I don’t know if all barn owls do this.

The next talk I helped out with was a presentation of our two resident snakes, a California King Snake and a Gopher snake. I love snakes. I’d even be willing to work with poisonous snakes if we had any. We don’t take in rattlesnakes. No one at the center has been trained to deal with them.

Besides helping with the animals, I ate 2 tri tip sandwiches and drank 5 bottles of water – free food and beverages (non-alcoholic, of course) – good perks for staff. I also helped put stuff away, and brought our burrowing owl around to show people. I sat down on my haunches to get closer to the little kids so they could see the owl.

The people who came to the event were almost all very nice and didn’t cause any problems. I am sorry I was not allowed to let the kids pet the snakes, but because these snakes are indigenous wildlife, they are not allowed to be kept as pets, require special permits to be kept at all, and members of the public are not allowed to touch them. Same goes for all the animals. Even though the people who come to our events are not able to handle or pet the animals, I still think they have a good time. We provide opportunities for people to see animals up close that they would normally only see at a distance, if at all.

This was, I believe, the largest turnout we’ve had for an event. Over 1 thousand people came to our little parking lot area outside the main building where we had our booths and chairs set up, and we took in lots of cash in the form of donations and proceeds. It’s great to see people doing outdoor animal-related things with their kids. There are still some good parents out there.

So.. a good day, and I am happy I was able to help out, and introduce people to owls and snakes. It’s wonderful so many animal lovers came.

The center is a private non-profit company – we get no money at all from any government. We get by on grants, donations, and money from fundraisers like today. I hope we made enough money to keep the center open for quite awhile, so we can help many more animals, and educate the public about them.

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