The owl vigorously flapped its wings, and Rutger rattled off some little-known owl trivia.
Its face serves as a “satellite dish” hearing system, its bones are hollow and its head can rotate 270 degrees. To top it off, the bird’s weight doesn’t even top two pounds.
“Most people guess about 15 pounds or so,” Rutger explained.
Since its start in 1990, Back to the Wild Rehabilitation and Nature Education Center in Castalia has become an integral part of educating area children about wildlife. Its staff members reach more than 65,000 students each year.
Rutger often brings animal ambassadors from the center to local schools for her educational presentations, which teach the importance of protecting the environment and respecting all its creatures.
“I think everyone knows about her and her animals,” fifth-grader Megan Barber, 11, said. “My family and I went out to the center to visit before.”
Even so, the experience never gets old.
One by one, each child’s face lit up as they entered the gymnasium and spotted a bald eagle, hawks and owls on their perches. Some students pointed at them, while others covered their mouth and gasped in shock.
To show their appreciation, the classes collected $600 this week to donate to Rutger’s cause.
“The black rat snake was my favorite,” fifth-grader Jaxson Cramer, 10, said.
The animals used in Rutger’s presentation won’t make it back to the wild, mostly because of injuries caused by human impact.
But by teaching children about mankind’s often harmful actions, Rutger hopes they will be inspired to protect thousands of Ohio’s native animals, many located right in their backyards.
“Students today are often disconnected from nature, and it’s not their fault,” Rutger said. “I’m always honored and excited when I’m invited to the schools, so I can give the students an opportunity to learn about nature up close.”