One of the highlights of the 51st annual Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District meeting was a presentation by Kathy Hershey, Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Hope, co-founder.
“We provide veterinary care, rehabilitation and release for orphaned, sick and injured native Indiana reptiles, mammals and birds,” she told the crowd Feb. 19 at the Franklin County High School cafeteria. There are also some animals that stay at the center because they are permanently injured or nonreleasable.
“Ninety-nine percent of the animals we get are hurt by people, and 99 percent are hit by cars.”
She pointed out, “Wildlife helps us find the health of the environment .... We do a lot of reporting about animal health.
“Birds of prey, including owls, hawks, falcons, eagles and ospreys, all have things in common. All of them eat meat, have really good eyesight and very sharp talons. They also have sharp beaks for ripping and tearing.
“These animals are really important to us because they show us what is really wrong with the food chain .... Everybody is somebody’s lunch.”
Hershey had children from the audience hold up cards with pictures of plants and seeds, mice, snakes and an owl to represent a food chain. She asked them, “What happens if there are not enough plants and seeds?”
They responded, “The mice die.” It also affects the other animals that eat them. “If something is wrong with the food chain, we’re going to see it at the top with the owls.”
She brought several birds of prey to show the audience. “The first is a predator, one that probably visits your backyard. It’s the smallest kind of owl in Indiana. It loves to eat mice, small animals and insects.
“A lot of people are finding these guys on their back porches or in their letter boxes. They are really good at hiding during the day. They’re like forest ninjas!