Students experience wild lesson in classroom

by BETH ALTENA

Joe Rogers considered the cliffs of Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula his office for over 20 years, and in that time he has listened to the howls of wolves in the blackness of night and seen eagles hatch and fledge. This semester he brought some of that wildness to Rockford with a visit to Crestwood Elementary School where he told the students tales of the injured animals he uses for educational purposes.

Rogers, who along with wife Barb, brought from carrying cases a variety of birds who have been injured beyond rehabilitation to a life in the wild. To a wide-eyed audience he explained how some injuries occurred—some accidental, some through human bad behavior. Mostly he described the unique qualities of the birds he cares for.

“Do you know how to spot a mouse from up in the air, catch it with your toes and eat it whole?” he asked one student. “She does,” he stated, pointing to one of the teachers. Rogers told kids how birds like owls swallow their food complete to keep any insects away from their feathers. They then spit out a “pellet” of bones and other indigestible parts of rodent or other prey.

Rogers Wildlife Recovery Association has been researching and rehabilitating wild animals since 1974. The “living animal’ wildlife presentations are models for other organizations and are a great hit for children and adults. Rogers believes wildlife and people can only coexist through a greater understanding of wildlife by people.

“Many of the problems concerning wildlife are not fully understood,” Rogers stated. “Our work in rehabilitation offers unique and almost endless opportunities for scientific research to better understand our wildlife.”

In addition to raptors, such as hawks, owls, falcons and eagles, the Wildlife Recovery Association has cared for cougar, bear, bobcats, coyote and more. In cooperation with state and federal law enforcement agencies, the organization has held animals as evidence during legal proceedings.

Rogers has a unique, fast-paced presentation that keeps youngsters and adults in attendance paying attention and guessing what’s coming next. He brought a chicken to Crestwood so kids could feel and see a bird with plumage similar to that of a baby turkey vulture. An adult turkey vulture showed the strength of the bird’s wings, which fanned students’ faces with billows of air.

The Wildlife Recovery Association is located at 531 S. Coleman Road, Shepherd, MI 48883, and can be reached at (989) 772-1538. The general public is invited to donate or become a member for as little as $10 for an individual up to a sponsor at $1,000. Businesses can join for as little as $25 for a nonprofit up to a corporate sponsorship, also at $1,000. Membership benefits include newsletters and wildlife calendars and are tax deductible. Donations and memberships pay for the care of injured and orphaned wildlife and a low-cost educational program.

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