Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Visits NREP

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Visits NREP
Posted on 03/08/2019
DecorativeThe students at Northwestern Regional Education Programs (NREP) gathered in the gymnasium for a special assembly on Virginia wildlife. Jennifer Burghoffer, Manager of Education at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center (BRWC), talked to students about the importance of the Wildlife Center, and how the Center is a hospital for injured, orphaned, or sick animals found in the wild. The Center provides veterinary and rehabilitative care to the animals with the goal of releasing them back to the wild when ready. Jennifer reminded students that all wild animals can bite and should not be touched.

Cheddar the snakeThe students were excited to meet Jennifer’s four very special ambassadors: “Cheddar,” the cornsnake; “Bruce,” the Big Brown Bat; “Dopey,” the screech owl; and “Blossom,” the opossum. Cheddar received her name due to her exotic coloring. She was an exotic pet for someone who did not take good care of her. She was very aggressive when first brought to the center, but, after a year of living at the Center, has slowly learned to trust Jennifer. Students were told that Cheddar “smells” with her tongue and has a special organ on the roof of her mouth that helps her decipher taste. Jennifer also reminded the students that you cannot have native wildlife, or exotic pets, in Virginia without a permit.

The students laughed when they heard that Bruce, the tiny bat, was known as a Big Brown Bat. Big Brown Bats used to live in caves, but in today’s world, they are found more in homes. One student asked, “Do bats eat fruit?” Jennifer explained that this bat species eats insects, not fruit. She told the students that bats can eat between 600-1000 mosquito-sized insects in an hour. In order to gather food, the bat makes a squeal-like sound that bounces off the environment, which then bounces back to its ears, allowing the bat to build a 3D image out of the sound to find bugs. This also helps the bat avoid obstacles, so they do not fly into things; trees, for instance.

Dopey the screech owlAll the students just loved Dopey, the screech owl. Dopey has a neurological disorder and is prone to seizures. There is a disconnect between his eyes and brain, which makes it hard for him to process information. He is unable to fly, but forgets this bit of information and tries to fly off. The Center keeps him on a special leash to keep him safe from falls. One student asked, “Do owls keep their downy feathers?” Jennifer was impressed by this question and explained that while babies are born with downy feathers, they will lose the baby ones when they grow in adult feathers, though they do grow fluffy adult feathers to keep themselves warm. One student remarked, “Oh, like when we lose baby teeth.” Another student asked, “How far can the owl turn his head?”, to which Jennifer replied, “270 degrees, mid shoulder to other mid shoulder.”

Blossom the opossumBlossom, the opossum, was another audience favorite. Blossom is blind in one eye and has neurological issues. She was very sick when she first arrived at the Center and needed intensive care. The Center had to amputate her back right foot. Her home is at the Center, because she does not show natural protective instincts that would keep her safe in the wild. Her brother arrived at the center with her, but he was very aggressive. The Center fixed his broken leg and released him back into the wild.

The students asked great questions and were completely fascinated with the animals. What a wonderful learning experience for all. NREP would like to thank Jennifer for sharing her knowledge with us, and appreciates all the special work they do at the Center.
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