Youngwood-based wildlife group educates students
Wildlife Works Inc., a Youngwood-based organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of distressed wildlife, held a program recently at a Connellsville Area School District elementary school.
Elementary students from Clifford N. Pritts Elementary attended a presentation conducted by Marcia Osborn, education coordinator of the non-profit organization.
“Respect is the main component of my program's lessons,” Osborn said. “I insist that children, and adults for that matter, demonstrate respect for the animals, and for Mother Nature herself.”
Often the orphaned mammals and birds the organization rehabilitates have been victims of human interference, environmental contamination or habitat destruction, according to the organization's website.
Osborn brought along a Virginia opossum, an Eastern box turtle, a corn snake and an American kestrel, which is a type of small falcon.
She informed the audience that turtles can live to be more than 100 years old, and that an opossum, the only marsupial in North America, typically has 50 teeth, more than any other mammal on the continent.
“My goal is to let the kids see these beautiful creatures up close, and to help them learn what they can do to protect them,” Osborn said.
Ways she suggested the children can do so included not polluting the waterways or littering.
She also encouraged fishermen to be cautious with the use of hooks and fishing lines so that they do no injure wildlife.
“We see lots of baby birds around this time, and baby bunnies,” Osborn said.
She went on to explain that mother rabbits leave their babies in a shallow nest during the day, and often they are thought to be abandoned when discovered by people, but they are not.
Osborn stressed to the students that they should never attempt to handle or feed wildlife.
“Wildlings are not pets,” Osborn said. “Not only is it dangerous to attempt to touch them, it is illegal.”
In the weeks prior to the Osborn's visit, students in kindergarten through sixth grade at the school brought in donations such as bird food. Kelly Sarnelli, the program's organizer and a representative of the school's Parent Teacher Group, said parents and teachers who belong to the group were very happy with the student's participation in collecting donations.
“We've got 12 nice-sized boxes of items to donate to their facility,” Sarnelli said.
Osborn said Wildlife Works Inc. is always looking for donations and volunteers for the facility.
Those interested in volunteering with the group must be at least 18 years old. They can learn more by calling 724-925-6862.
As the organization serves all of Westmoreland and many other counties when they are able, they are always in need of food and supplies for their patients.
“The program was a good experience for the kids — it teaches them to respect wildlife,” said Sarina Hoover, a third-grade teacher at C.N. Pritts Elementary.
Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.