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Birds of prey spread their wings at Native American festival

| Sunday, July 18, 2004

As Native Americans danced around the sacred fire at the Eastern Woodlands Festival held in Connellsville recently, people weren't the only creatures watching.

Under cover of a canvas tent, a barred owl, an eastern screech owl and a red-tailed hawk sat tethered to carpeted perches, their eyes fixed on those strolling through the camp.

The trio were part of a display for Skye's Spirit Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, in Harrisville, Venango County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the care, rehabilitation and release of injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife.

Owners Robert and Maryjane Angelo attended the festival to give information about their facility and solicit funds to continue their work. Depending upon the season of the year, the census at the center varies between 70 and 100 animals, including native species from vultures to black snakes.

"No animal that lives in the wild ever makes a good pet, and they never will," Robert Angelo told his listeners when asked if the birds on display had names. He added that it is better to work with the animals until they can be returned to their natural habitat.

Those animals that are not able to fly or fend for themselves are placed with educational facilities or used in programs aimed at teaching adults and children how to conserve natural resources.

"When me and Maryjane started out, our No. 1 goal was to make sure that every animal that came into the rehab center first had a chance to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. If at all possible, that was the only answer for the animal. If, and only if it couldn't happen, we try to find alternatives," he said.

His wife added that her greatest satisfaction in doing this type of service is watching an animal run free again or seeing a bird take off on a release flight.

This was the first year the center was represented at the festival, and organizer Veryl Silent Wing Tarter said the crowd was very receptive to the couple's work.

The center operates on 10 acres in southwestern Venango County, but accepts wildlife that is brought in from surrounding areas. It receives no state or federal funding.

Adjoining land is leased for enclosures and a pond, and funds are now being raised to purchase that acreage.

Another center display will be featured at the Lightning Valley Village Native American Festival scheduled for Aug. 18-20 at the Brownsville-Luzerne Patsy Hillman Park in Hiller. The center can be contacted at 889 Farren Surrena Road, Harrisville, PA 16038, through the Web site, www.skyes-spirit.com, e-mail at rehab@skyes-spirit.com., or phone 814-786-9677.

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