In brief

Event aims to educate residents about wildlife issues

By David Percival 03/08/2012

A tree trimming job took a frightening turn when Tito plummeted to the ground from the fronds of a towering palm in Oxnard.

He survived the fall, suffering a few broken bones.

Tito isn’t the name of a lucky landscaper, but rather a Ventura County raptor, a barn owl.  The baby bird fell when tree trimmers unintentionally knocked his nest down, killing his siblings.

This Saturday the public has a rare opportunity to see Tito and other birds of prey up close and personal when the Ojai Raptor Center opens its doors to the public as a part of the Ojai Raptor Center’s Open House event. The event aims to educate the public about the hazards facing our local feathery friends.

“Basically, we’re opening ourselves up so people can see what we do,” said Kim Stroud, director of Ojai Raptor Center. “This is an opportunity to see the only rehab center that actually has a facility. We’re here for the community.”

The Ojai Raptor Center works to rehabilitate injured or orphaned hawks, owls and other wildlife with the ultimate goal of releasing the animals back into the wild. It receives as many as 1,400 animals annually and, at peak season in July, it’s not uncommon for the center to receive 170 raptors.

Saturday’s event will include several non-releasable “ambassador” birds, animals that live permanently at the center due to irreparable injuries and contribute extensively to educational programs with the public.

Tito is one such bird.

“He sustained a broken wing and broken leg,” said Stroud. “Today he educates a lot of people [about when it’s appropriate to trim trees]. Tree trimming needs to happen in the fall and winter. He was trimmed out of a tree in May.”

The open house event will also feature activities for the kids, including a coloring station and educational tables with bird feathers.

Mike McLellan, a wildlife rehabilitator with the Ojai Raptor Center, hopes the event educates people on the purpose of the center.

“It’s important for people to understand what we do,” said McLellan, who will handle both a bald and a golden eagle at the event. “Please support us, have a good time, and learn something wonderful.”

The Ojai Raptor Center Open House is Saturday, March 10, noon - 4 p.m., 370 Baldwin Road in Ojai.  The event is free to the public, but donations are encouraged and appreciated.

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