Earth Day with Wild Friends

In celebration of Earth Day last week, there were two festivals over the weekend in the vicinity of Best Friends, one held five miles south in Kanab and the other about 50 miles west in Springdale, at the south entrance to Zion National Park. Wild Friends, the wildlife rehabilitation and education center at Best Friends, was at both to inform the public about wildlife conservation and about the work the center does getting animals back into the wild after they’ve been orphaned or wounded.

While blustery skies kept the big crowds away in Kanab, warm spring temperatures brought out several hundred to Springdale. The highlight at both festivals was the owl pellet dissections.

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Wild Friends’ education coordinator Erin Sorenson led children through the process of discovering all the various, undigested treasures that can be found in pellets. The children wore surgical face masks (more for fun than necessity) while picking through the pre-sterilized pellets and identifying the bones they contained. Most won prizes for correctly identifying the bones.

"They were just thrilled — I’ve never seen a group of kids so engaged," Erin said after the festival in Kanab.

After the dissection session was over at the festival in Springdale, parents returned to the Wild Friends tent to thank Erin for providing so much educational fun for their children.

Sorenson, who has a certification in wildlife education from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, also led a workshop for kids on making twirlers that hang on windows to prevent birds from flying into them.

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Another big draw to the Wild Friends tent in Springdale was Suvali, an educational barn owl who resides at Wild Friends. Perched on the arm of Wild Friends' caregiver Todd Moore and serving as a conversation starter about owls and other birds of prey, Suvali handled her role with relaxed aplomb, even as children started to flock around her.

Also present at both festivals was Wild Friends' caregiver Abe McGowan. Abe sold T-shirts screened with a woodcut he created of Alfred, an educational crow who also resides at Wild Friends. Proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts went to Wild Friends.

Those who stopped by the Wild Friends tent entered to win a gift basket by signing up for the Utah Council for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education newsletter, a joint project of several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Utah. The Best Friends-published newsletter informs the public on what wildlife rehabilitation is all about and on what to do in case you come across injured or orphaned wildlife. (If you would like to receive the newsletter either in print or electronic form, contact Wild Friends at wild@bestfriends.org.)

Educating the public about wildlife conservation is one of Wild Friends’ missions, and festivals like the ones in Kanab and Springdale no doubt provide the opportunity to fulfill that mission.

Written by Best Friends staff

Photos by Sarah Ause