Kinana McDaniel had to drag Phoenix from the cage. The barn owl was not too interested in seeing what was out there in the larger world. Eventually, a combination of patience and the heavy leather gloves McDaniel wore got the big white owl out of hiding and out for people to see. Once out, the ooohs and ahhhhs from the crowd were definitely heard by the bird. Phoenix came to Wild for Life around the same time as McDaniel—you might say they grew up there together—when she started as an 11-year old volunteer there.
On the other side of the room, Susie Wright was showing off Rufous, an eastern screech owl. “They make a lot of noise, maybe to make up for their size,” said Wright. Susie has been with Wild for Life since 1989, and sums up their mission, saying “Our goal is to return wild animals to the wild. To date, we have helped around 1400 animals and returned 60% to the wild. I feel good about that.”
But owls and salted caramel ice cream were not all on the menu tonight. Trish McCoy soon brought out Junior, a broadwinged hawk, who is the victim of some kind of accident and suffered a brain injury. You have never been stared down until you have been stared down by a hawk. McCoy has been a volunteer for 4 years, and says “this is just the best kind of community place to volunteer.” Junior—who until recently was thought to be a male—does not have any obvious injuries, no missing wing, foot or tail. It gives him, well, presence. I would not want to be a mouse, rabbit or snake around him.
Oh yeah, that recently-discovered gender thing? In birds of prey it is very difficult to tell the sex of an individual. In Junior’s case, she recently layed an egg, so that was pretty good proof, but she’s still Junior.
Mary Beth Bryman was birdless at this show. She shared some of the challenges of caring for their flock, especially their diet of frozen mice The current population is 14 hawks and owls, they eat thawed mice, some of them have to be fed by hand due to physical limitations. Wild for Life goes through about 1,000 mice a month, it’s what’s for dinner. “We are the only local 501(c)3 wildlife rehab center. We specialize in birds of prey(hawks, owls, eagles) and turkey vultures, and we do whatever we can to restore these fantastic creatures back to the wild.”
Wild for Life has another, larger fundraiser coming up on July 20th at the Orange Peel, Phoenix, Rufous and Junior will all be there. Another month, another 1,000 mice out of the freezer and into the beaks.