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Nature Center hosting wildlife presentation on Saturday

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MASSENA - Visitors to the Nature Center at Robert Moses State Park on Saturday will have an opportunity to meet some wildlife and learn about them in the process.

A donation from the FLO Foundation, started by Norfolk’s David LaShomb and his family, is supporting the 1-3 p.m. presentation by the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center, a non-profit organization in Wilmington, near Whiteface Mountain, that rehabilitates wildlife with the goal of reintroduction to their natural habitat.

The FLO Foundation is a local non-profit organization that raises funds for wildlife rehabilitators.

FLO stands for Feisty and Little One, the names of two raccoons Mr. LaShomb and his daughter had attempted to rehabilitate a couple of years ago. Mr. LaShomb had tried unsuccessfully to find a rehabilitator, so he was raising the animals himself when a state Department of Environmental Conservation officer picked them up and they were ordered killed by the state Health Department for rabies testing.

Nature Center Program Coordinator Debra A. Donatto said they were contacted by Mr. LaShomb about holding Saturday’s event at the Nature Center after FLO had provided a donation for a similar program to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge.

“They go around and raise funds to be able to help out rehabilitators in the area. They were able to raise quite a bit of money and donated $500 to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge,” she said.

“Because of not being able to find a wildlife rehabilitator at the time, and I didn’t have the means to become one myself, my daughter and I started the foundation to basically help (other wildlife rehabilitators) financially,” Mr. LaShomb said.

Ms. Donatto said that, with the money, they told Mr. LaShomb they were willing to give a presentation on predators, but didn’t have a location until Mr. LaShomb contacted the Nature Center to find out if they were interested in hosting the presentation.

“It’s a free presentation for the community. They told us they would be able to bring a red fox and Arctic fox and birds of prey. They have a couple of wolves and a couple of bears, but because of their nature, they’re not allowed to bring them into public places,” she said.

“The big thing is talking about predators. So many people are fearful of predators. Their first instinct is to kill them or prevent them from harming them. They educate on the importance the predator has in maintaining our ecosystem, our environment and what would happen without them,” Ms. Donatto said.

Presenters will also stress the importance of not trying to tame a wild creature.

“They’re into rehabilitating and introducing them back to the wild. They’re letting people know, no matter how cute they are, they shouldn’t try to tame them. If they tame it, it may not be able to survive on its own,” she said.

Mr. LaShomb said he was happy to donate to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, and it’s one of many donations he has been able to make through fundraising efforts such as bake sales and a horseshoe tournament at the Gandy Dancer in Norfolk.

“Last year I donated about $1,200 in cash and goods. I turn around and give it all right back to wildlife rehabilitators. We’re all into rehabilitating wildlife, helping the people that do that because they do it without any financial benefit. They do it out of their own heart,” he said.

After learning about the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, Mr. LaShomb said he visited them in Wilmington and that got the ball rolling for Saturday’s presentation.

“They put out a plea about a bear cub pen they were building. It was going to cost $20,000. I donated $5,000. In return, they agreed to put this wildlife show on for us. My daughter thought it would be great to bring it to the Nature Center,” he said.

Mr. LaShomb also donated $300 to cover the cost of food for several raccoons that were being rehabilitated at the center.

“There’s a lot of need out there,” he said.

He continues to raise funds with the hopes of being able to keep assisting rehabilitators so they can return wildlife to their natural habitat.

“Right now we have about $600 to $700 in our coffers. I’d be happy if I have $1,000 to $15,000 that I can give back to the rehabilitators,” he said.

Following Saturday’s presentation, the Junior Earth Keepers Club will play a game of “Who Eats What!” They’ll receive cards and be asked to match a food to the predator that eats it.

“We’re putting colored pictures of animals along the paved trail. Depending on how many show up, we’ll divide into four teams. They’ll try to match the animal up to the food. The team that’s the most successful will get a prize. It will be educational, even if they get the wrong answers,” Ms. Donatto said.

The Junior Earth Keepers Club, which is a grant-funded program via the Alcoa Foundation, is for children ages 5 to 12, who can join at anytime. It’s an environmental educational kid’s club that meets monthly, and provides regular incentives for learning and volunteering at the Nature Center.

“We have over 40 kids that have come out to participate. We never know who’s going to show up,” Ms. Donatto said.

She said they put the word out and participants show up.

“We were surprised because we have no building and everything would have to be outdoors. There was one time when we were planning a snowshoe adventure for the kids and it poured and poured and poured. We thought no one was gong to come. But we had eight kids show up. They put on snowshoes and we went out and the weather cleared up,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about nature and wildlife. We’re also introducing them to some technology. With the Earth Keeper grant that’s funded by the Alcoa Foundation, we were able to buy some tablets, iPads, GPS units and digital cameras. We try to incorporate those into the activities. They take digital pictures of items rather than bringing them back,” Ms. Donatto said.

As part of Saturday’s event, Mr. LaShomb was able to obtain a donation of a bear chain saw wood carving from local wood carver Terry L. McKendree.

“He’s going to be raffling that off here at the event. We’ll be selling raffle tickets for it. He’s going to pick the winner at the event,” Ms. Donatto said.

For more information, contact the Nature Center at (315) 705-5022 or email ncrebirth@yahoo.com. For a full list of events, check out www.massenanaturecenter.org.

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