Archive for the ‘Volunteer’ Category

Woodlands Give Shelter To Local Wildlife

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Susanne Norgard
MENDOCINO, CA–Each person finds their own way to “give back” by doing something that is most meaningful to them.

Ronnie James found her calling when she received a phone call from veterinarian Jan Dietrich. Dr. Dietrich knew Ronnie had volunteered at the Raptor Center in Davis, CA and wanted to know if she could provide a home for a Great Horned Owl that he had saved.

Giving shelter to wildlife is not as easy as it would seem. An ordinary citizen is not allowed to keep wildlife unless he or she has federal and state licenses. And the only way to keep wildlife that cannot be returned to the wild is to have additional federal and state licenses as a wildlife educator. Ronnie pursued all of these licenses, and Woodlands Wildlife was born.

Ronnie and three other volunteers do most of the work at Woodlands Wildlife. “Everybody wants to volunteer until they discover that it means scrubbing poop out of cages every day, and there is little contact with the animals,” Ronnie explains. “For animals to heal, they need a stress free environment, and that means as little human contact as possible.” Ronnie admits that she has only had two vacations in the last 15 years, but does not complain. Instead she finds working with animals to be a “special privilege.”

The work is clearly the reward. Ronnie remembers a Spotted Owl that was brought to her after being hit by a car on Highway 20. “The owl was unconscious for two weeks,” she relates. “And then it took three months to heal the bird. We ultimately released him where he was found and both his territory and mate were waiting for him.” Ronnie explains that she worked with Mendocino Redwood Company foresters to call for other owls in the area to make sure that a new male had not claimed the territory while the injured owl was recuperating.

Ninety percent of the animals cared for are orphaned. But Ronnie warns against one of the most common mistakes. “People pick up fawns not realizing the mother leaves the fawn alone while she forages. It is normal for a baby to be alone. If we can return it within 72 hours, the mother will take the baby back.” She also warns against placing an unconscious animal in the car, describing how one man put an unconscious bobcat in his back seat after he had hit the animal in the road. Imagine the man’s fright when the unconscious animal awoke and was suddenly in the front seat of the car, snarling.

Although wildlife rehabilitation is an important part of her work, equally important is education. Ronnie leads over 24 educational programs each year. This year, with a grant from the Community Foundation, she is presenting a Mountain Lion safety program in school classrooms and to the general public. She is careful not to scare children, but to help them understand how humans and mountain lions can co-exist. The adult program covers legal issues, protecting pets and livestock, and safe behavior for adults and children.

The Community Foundation also funded the Owl Box Project, a Woodlands Wildlife project a few years ago that involved educating children about owls and building owl boxes for rodent control around schools in the Mendocino School District. Although only about half of the boxes have attracted owls, Ronnie says that they continue to be very successful as educational tools.

Woodlands Wildlife is a part of an animal rehabilitation referral network that is used by veterinarians and people who work in the woods. The Willits Wildlife Team serves the Willits and Ukiah area. Animals are also sent to the Marine Mammal Center, Santa Rosa Bird Rescue, Sonoma Wildlife, and Clearlake Fawn Rescue.

Some of these organizations have paid staff. Others, like Woodlands Wildlife, are supported entirely by volunteer efforts. In the case of Woodlands Wildlife, one of the primary expenses is food, which must be USDA approved (wild rodents might carry disease). It is purchased, dead and frozen, from a zoo supplier. — Mendocino Beacon

Master Naturalists For Conservation

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Rob Kantor
IN HIS DAY JOB, Doug Mills helps University of Illinois instructors make good use of computers and the World Wide Web in their teaching. At home, he’s a husband and father who is heavily involved in the lives of his children, with the soccer games, swim meets and youth group activities that entails.

But on certain evenings this Spring, Doug has been listening to the call of the wild. Well, the mating calls of frogs and toads, actually.

You see, in addition to his family and work, Doug is keenly interested in the natural world. And in the past year he has found a way to pursue that interest through the East Central Illinois Master Naturalist Program.

Sponsored cooperatively by University of Illinois Extension, the Urbana Park District, and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, the Master Naturalist Program aims to educate a corps of volunteers to provide support for the conservation, management, and interpretation of natural resources in our area.

Doug Mills was among the participants in the first Master Naturalist training course, which was conducted last Fall. From early on, he knew that he wanted to devote his volunteer hours to conservation efforts involving reptiles and amphibians.

In cooperation with Dan Olson, Director of Natural Resources for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, Doug initiated frog call surveys to establish some baseline data about the frogs and toads that inhabit Forest Preserve sites. Such surveys are a standard method for gathering information about these critters, since they can be difficult to see, but are readily identified by their vocalizations during the mating season. (See Doug’s frog blog at

Doug is conducting his surveys at the Homer Lake and River Bend County Forest Preserves. So far he has visited each site twice and has plans to return three more times.

He begins listening at about sunset, walking a predetermined circuit and recording information about the numbers and species of frogs and toads he hears. So far he has found two species of toads and five species of frogs, including Grey Treefrogs, which are of particular interest because they seem to be declining in central Illinois.

Beyond establishing a baseline for future investigations, the information about frogs and toads provided by Doug’s surveys will also help the Forest Preserve District gauge the quality of the sites it maintains, since the presence or absence of frogs is an indicator of ecosystem health.

Now, having said so much about frog call surveys, I should emphasize that most of the people who participated in last Fall’s Master Naturalist training have not been tramping around after dark listening to amorous amphibians.

If you would like to explore the possibility of becoming a WindStar National Master Naturalist, you can learn more about the program by going  to or call 800-324-9044

Giving Back To Nature

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Karen Gardner
MYERSVILLE, MD– Children got down and dirty recently at Myersville Elementary School, but it was for a good cause.

They planted native wildflowers in a formerly grassy area of the school’s grounds, an area students and teachers hope will soon be attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

The planting is part of the Schoolyard Habitat program in Frederick County schools. This year, the first for the program, culminated in wildflower garden plantings at participating schools. Students at Wolfsville Elementary, Walkersville Elementary and Walkersville High School also are taking part. Next year four more schools will become part of the project, and the following year, three more will sign on.

Teachers and parents dug holes in Myersville’s newly plowed garden, while students planted more than 500 coneflowers, columbine, switchgrass and great blue lobelias. Each child in the school had the opportunity to plant one of the perennials.

Each grade also planted a redbud tree. All of the plants in the school’s gardens are native to this area. Once established, they will not need to be watered and should bloom year after year.

April Wells, schoolyard habitat teacher specialist for Frederick County Public Schools, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded the county a $300,000 grant for the program. The grant pays two half-time salaries for Wells and a biologist from Community Commons, and for materials. Wells said the hardest part of a schoolyard habitat program is getting it started.

“Teachers are so busy,” she said.

The program helps teachers and students learn which plants to place where. The plants chosen for Myersville’s garden need to thrive in a hot, sunny location. They also need to tolerate bouts of rain interspersed with times of drought.

“When people think of habitat, they usually think of big animals,” Wells said.

Bugs, birds, butterflies, reptiles and aquatic life are equally important. Another part of the program will be to put bluebird nesting boxes around the Myersville school grounds.

Carolyn Mark and Debbie Smith, two Myersville teachers, attended a workshop last summer on creating a schoolyard habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation helped to pay for that.

Smith said the students are learning that what they do in the mountains around Myersville affects the Chesapeake Bay, and that improving habitat for birds, insects, reptiles and mammals around Myersville helps the Bay.

“We started with recycling in the fall,” Smith said. “We also planted black-eyed susans around lightpoles.” The state flower spreads easily and tolerates hot, dry conditions once it is established.

“We’ve been teaching about native species, and that they all have a purpose,” Smith said. Pointing to the seedpods of a tree, she said students learn that seeds are food for animals. “It’s a big part of our curriculum.”

“We’re planting plants so there are buffers for chemicals that run down into the ground and clean it so that the runoff won’t hurt the Chesapeake Bay,” said Alison Miller, 9, a third-grader at Myersville. “If we don’t keep the Bay clean, animals will die.”

“We’re planting flowers and grasses so when they grow bees and other animals can use them for nectar,” said Rachel Glessner, 9, also a third-grader. Alison added that the trees will help filter air pollution.

The garden plot was baked clay with rocks two weeks ago when Chuck Houck, a local landscape architect, chopped up the sod. A week later parents added topsoil and mulch to the plot. After the planting, the Myersville Volunteer Fire Company watered the patch.

“We’re hoping to extend the project one day,” said Maureen Nissel, a parent who helped write the grant for the program. She is also an assistant professor for recreation and parks management at Frostburg University.

“My dream is an outdoor classroom, an area where kids can learn, have a weather station and a shelter and learn about their individual impact on the environment,” she said. “Kids are spending more and more time indoors. We want them to become more aware.” –Frederick News Post