Indiana group brings wildlife lessons to high school

December 22, 2017

CALUMET TWP., Ind. (AP) — Have you ever heard the hoot or screech of an owl and wondered about the species?

Have you driven down the street and saw a wild animal — a raccoon or bird — lying bleeding in the roadway after being hit by a car? Or have you taken a run through the Indiana Dunes and seen a turtle, immobile and suffering from a broken shell?

The students in Sam Miestowski’s art class at Calumet New Tech High School had an opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife when Humane Indiana educator Nicole Harmon brought wild animals into the art room.

Students have been preparing for the lecture by drawing pictures of wild animals and putting them up around the art room.

Harmon brought an Eastern screech owl named Riley, a female red tail hawk named Phoenix, and an Eastern box turtle named Carrot, calling them “the education ambassadors.”

Harmon, who was accompanied by the organization’s intern Dalton Good, talked about the wildlife the agency works with and gave students some advice about what to do when they encounter endangered wildlife.

The agency’s goal, Harmon said, is to heal the injured animals and return them to the wild. However, if an animal has been badly injured and it would be dangerous to return it to its habitat, it becomes one of the organization’s “education” animals, visiting schools, libraries and other facilities across the Region.

Harmon cautioned nearly 100 students and teachers from other classes, crowding the art room, that wild animals are not pets.

“Do not feed them,” she said.

Harmon said foxes or other wild animals who get used to humans will walk up to them, which can be dangerous.

“One of the cool things about owls is that it they will take care of baby animals, even if it’s not their baby,” she said. “He will raise it no matter whose baby it is, bringing food to it and sheltering it. We know it will be successful when it goes back into the wild,” Harmon said as she put on thick gloves to let the Eastern screech owl attach to her wrists.

“Once the babies are able to feed themselves and are healed, they are released back into the wild,” she told the packed room.

“They need to be with humans as little as possible so they adjust well when going back into the wild,” Harmon said.

Calumet junior Reyna Cooper said the presentation was “pretty great” and it was interesting to see the owls and other birds up close. She volunteered at Humane Indiana in Munster, she said, working with cats and dogs.

Calumet seniors Francheska and Alexis Williams, who are sisters, took numerous pictures of the wildlife.

Francheska Williams said her sister loves owls and their entire bedroom is decorated with the birds. Francheska said she loves turtles and got a kick out of seeing the orange-colored Eastern box turtle.

Three students — Travis Doty, Jacqueline Herrera-Morales and Jennifer Castillo — donated some of their wildlife drawings to Humane Indiana.

Freshmen Kyle Carroll said he thought, “Whoa,” when Harmon pulled out the hawk. Carroll wondered if Harmon was scared or nervous when she first started working with wild animals.

“I was, like, I want to do this,” he said. “I’d love to work at the Humane Society.”

Harmon talked about how she started at the zoo and then became an educator with Humane Indiana.

“I love animals. I have an iguana, two ferrets and a dog at home,” Carroll said.

Harmon travels throughout Northwest Indiana because she wants students to have an appreciation for wildlife. “I want them to be humane to all animals,” she said. “When I come out and bring wildlife ambassadors, it is an introduction to a species they’ve never seen before and that gives them more appreciation for wildlife.”

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