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People flock to Elburn wildlife center open house

Ashley Flint holds Jack Barred Owl Fox Valley Wildlife Center Elburn during center's annual open house Sunday Sept. 30 2012.

Ashley Flint holds Jack, a Barred Owl at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn during the center's annual open house on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 2, 2012 6:15AM

ELBURN — The Fox Valley Wildlife Center, 45W061 Highway 38, shared its wildlife inhabitants with visitors during its annual open house on Sunday afternoon.

The event featured a cake walk, pie walk, bake sale, pumpkin and pine cone painting, free popcorn and cider, a raffle — and a chance to spend time with native creatures.

Campton Hills resident Valentina King, 3, is the same age as Yodi the coyote. He let out a howl as she peeked into his enclosure.

“Yodi came to the center in 2009 from a litter of three that was found under a porch without their mother,” said volunteer Ethan Neil of St. Charles. “His favorite food is chicken.”

Since Yodi never became aggressive enough to take care of himself, he cannot be released into the wild.

The center is a nonprofit organization that is independent of Elburn Woods Forest Preserve, where the center is located. It does not receive federal, state, county or local funding. It relies solely on tax-deductible donations in order to care for orphaned or injured animals.

The center has about 60 volunteers to help take care of approximately 20 birds, 70 mammals, and some reptiles.

In addition to taking in injured squirrels, Neil said, the center is one of the few shelters that accepts injured pigeons from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Ashley Flint is the center’s director. Carol Stream resident Kim Baldyga, a member of Field of Dreams Horse Rescue in Batavia, said Flint does amazing work.

“Field of Dreams Horse Rescue and Fox Valley Wildlife Center support each other,” Baldyga said. “We share volunteers. I once watched Ashley helping a swan that had been attacked by other swans. The skin on his neck was hanging down. Ashley stitched him up and fixed his ear drum.”

Volunteer helpers

Savanna Chimenti, 12, of Sugar Grove likes to volunteer at the center because she can really connect with the animals when she feeds them.

Chimenti and fellow volunteer Sue Lester of South Elgin showed Snitch the opossum to visitors on Sunday.

“Snitch was injured by a car in 2010,” said Lester. “She was brain-damaged and blind with her palate broken. She was at the University of Illinois wildlife clinic before she came here. Since playing dead is an involuntary response by opossums and Snitch never feels threatened, she doesn’t do it. She does sleep a lot. You can cuddle with her and pick her up. Her favorite food is watermelon.”

Volunteer Jamie Rothstein of St. Charles said Lucy the Canada goose likes grapes and sweet corn.

“Lucy was released twice on the Fox River, but she prefers to follow people,” Rothstein said. “While Canada geese were once endangered, they are now experiencing a population explosion. There is so much open water around here that they no longer have to migrate. The warmer weather causes ponds to freeze later than they once did.”

The Kane County Mounted Rangers attended the open house on Sunday so children could see their horses up close.

St. Charles resident Kate Leidi has been with the mounted rangers for 18 years.

“We do parades, search and rescue operations, and patrol forest preserves,” Leidi said. “I once found an 8-year-old boy at Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve (at St. Charles). He was hiding because he was afraid that his mother would be mad at him for getting lost. He was crying and scared. I offered to let him ride my horse with me. When he was reunited with his mother, he said he wanted to ride the horse again.”

DeKalb sisters Mindy Walker and Jessica Williams came to the center on Sunday to show visitors Cornelius the albino corn snake, Toby the three-toed box turtle, and some Vietnamese walking stick insects.

In order for children to learn more about the upcoming presidential election, Walker said that TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb and the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore are holding their own presidential election. Hercules, a giant tortoise, is the museum’s candidate, while TAILS is supporting Athena the hare. The public will vote online for the winner, and elementary school children will serve on the Electoral College that decides the race between the tortoise and the hare.

The Fox Valley Wildlife Center operates on fundraisers, memberships and donations. Calendars, sweatshirts, T-shirts and baseball caps with the center’s logo are sold to raise money for the center.

More information is available at 630-365-3800.

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