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Strawberry Hill welcomes new education program

Danielle Ryan

(10/2) A project four years in the making has finally culminated in an exciting way as Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve welcomed their newest environmental education project, a Barred Owl, early in September. The project was originally spearheaded by past Strawberry Hill intern Madison McMann, and has since been taken over by Strawberry Hill’s Assistant Education Coordinator, Elizabeth Ryan.

This project is truly exciting for not only Strawberry Hill, but also for the community. The proposed educational program, in addition to educating visitors about the Barred Owl, would examine the ‘big picture’ of raptor status and conservation. The program will offer the public a unique opportunity to get to know a native animal that may be frequently hear, but rarely seen. Learning about the wild animals that live in the area will hopefully raise awareness about the human impact on animals and the environment, which furthers the environmental education aspect of the mission of Strawberry Hill.

After funds were fully raised for the project back in 2013, McMann completed necessary renovations to the existing aviary, located by the Lane House, in 2014. This renovation included the addition of perches and a nesting box, a change in the substrate at the bottom of the aviary, and the addition of a second door to the aviary to prevent the owl from escaping. For the safety of the owl and visitors, the area around the aviary now also includes a rope fence.

Strawberry Hill began the application process for the necessary federal and state permits to obtain an owl in 2014, but the project was put on halt until earlier this year, when it was re-visited by Ryan, who continued researching the process more in depth. Once the paperwork was brought up to speed, the rest of the process went by relatively quickly. An owl educational program was also completed as part of the application process. Finally, Ryan reached out to a raptor rehabilitator in York, PA named Mitzie Eaton to help finalize the process.

The Barred owl is named Stryx, in honor of its scientific name Stryx varia, and is native to Pennsylvania. Stryx was found In Michaux State Forest with an injury to his wing. He underwent rehabilitation by Eaton, but unfortunately, the injury he sustained classified him as being un-releasable back into the wild. Ryan and Programs and Events Manager, Autumn Arthur, went through several sessions with Eaton at her rehabilitation facility, learning about proper handling, feeding, maintenance and safety of the new owl, before being safely transferred to his new home.

During the past few weeks at Strawberry Hill Stryx has been getting acclimated to his new environment and the staff at the Preserve. He is currently undergoing training so he can be used in future educational programs at the Preserve. Strawberry Hill’s staff and volunteers are excited to welcome their new animal ambassador and are hopeful that the new owl program will help them continue to educate the public about native species.

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