Sunday, May 25, 2008


Our Head Start visitors were fascinated by the animals

Wednesday was a great day. Despite the occasional badly timed rain shower and the lingering perfume of disgruntled fox, three of us from the New York Wildlife Rescue Center fully enjoyed our visits with the animal-loving youth of Schoharie County.

I was dropped off at Red Maple Farm around nine in the morning, and after helping Wes set up a few things to get ready for our first event, we sat on the front porch and sipped coffee. To our surprise, no more than about a hundred feet from us, a red fox entered one of the paddocks and started to stalk the Muscovy ducks. We know there is a litter of kits down the lane, and suspect that it was their mother, whose mate was killed by a car recently. Although we felt for her, the farm's domestic waterfowl really aren't fair game ... especially when we're expecting a large group of four year olds to come rolling in at any moment. The potential result was not a memory we wanted the kids to take home with them! Wes shouted at the vixen and clapped his hands. She ran off once, and then gave it one more try before finally disappearing into the woods.

Kelly Martin soon arrived with two of her smaller birds of prey, a gorgeous kestrel and her charming little screech owl. We finished setting up for the event shortly before the two school buses from Head Start pulled in.

The kids were marvelous, and very well behaved. They giggled at Wes's reading of "Is Your Mama a Llama?", and grew wide-eyed with amazement as they learned about wildlife, and about animals who appear to be wild but are not. Kelly's lovely birds, the marble fox Blizzard, the emu chick Elmer, a beautiful ringneck pheasant ... as each animal came out in turn to teach the children, you could see the wonder grow on their faces. A key component of the presentation was, "Don't touch", and "Tell your parents" if ever you see a wild creature in your yard. One of the peacocks sat in the rafters of the barn, eliciting laughter as he added
his occasional comments to the lecture, and Jake the Clydesdale seemed to enjoy storytime as much as the kids did. As young as these children are, I have hope that they'll carry these memories, and a growing respect for the animals, through life with them.

Kelly Martin's Screech Owl is introduced to the children

When the "hay bale classroom" segment was complete, the kids got a tour of the domestic animal section of the farm, and because they were so well behaved and such good listeners, each child was given a peacock feather to take home with them.

After the little ones left, and while Kelly ran home to collect her larger birds of prey, Wes and I loaded the animals who would accompany us for our second installment into the truck. Our afternoon was then spent in the company of the children of Sharon Springs Elementary School, who welcomed us kindly into their domain. We all enjoyed a moving, musical slideshow about wildlife rehabilitation, and then our Animal Teachers joined us again as Wes and Kelly shared a wonderful presentation with the kids. In addition to the animals from the morning, Kelly's Great Horned Owl and Marsh Hawk honored us with their presence, and held the rapt attention of the children. The students and teachers at Sharon Spring made us feel very welcome, and we are so grateful for both their hospitality, and for the generous donation the kids collected.

Wes and Kelly's Kestrel at Sharon Springs Elementary

It's always a good thing when you can present the truth about wildlife, and the need to care for and respect them, to young people. My hope is that as they carry the wisdom of the day with them, they will make the future for our native wild creatures just a little bit brighter.

New York Wildlife Rescue Center is labor of love, grown out of necessity, under the watchful eye of Wes and Darcy Laraway and the other wildlife rehabilitators who make up the board of directors of Northeast Llama Rescue and Barnyard Sanctuary. Sometimes a person's destiny is not decided entirely by them, but by the others who come into their lives ... in this case the wildlife who cried out for help. Although one main purpose of NYWR is to do educational presentations, we are also an active sanctuary, dedicated to helping injured and orphaned wild animals to heal, and preparing them for release back into their natural environments. In addition to the animals who accompany us as teachers, there are many others who are kept privately and safely away from too much human contact, with the intent that they can remain free and wild once they return to their true homes.

Baby Grey Squirrel in the private Sanctuary, almost
old enough to be prepared for release

We are a fledgling organization with a promising future, and would be honored if you would visit our website at There, you can follow our blogs, read about past and future events, get to know us, and if the spirit moves you, gift us with a donation. There are a lot of little ... and not so little ... mouths to feed, and every generous act is appreciated. We thank you kindly, but more important, the animals thank you, too.

[written and posted by Gayle]

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