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Wildlife Center hosts special event

By BETH HENRY-VANCE

The Inter-Mountain

FRENCH CREEK, W.Va.  — A young bald eagle and other birds attracted a crowd Tuesday at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center, as part of a celebration of West Virginia’s birthday.

June 20 marks the anniversary of the Mountain State, which was created in 1863, and it also is known as National American Eagle Day. On June 20, 1782, the bald eagle was placed on the United States seal and became a national icon.

From left, sisters Katlyn and Bella Tenney and their friend, Connor Lynch, all of French Creek, pose for a picture with a young bald eagle named ‘Specs’ and his handler, Mike Book, following an educational program at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.
(Photo by Beth Henry-Vance)

“This is our national symbol, and we don’t even know what a young bald eagle looks like,” said Mike Book, founder of the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Fairmont, during an educational presentation Tuesday. Book said people have shot bald eagles in West Virginia and many other states, but often they are young eagles that just look like large brown birds.

Bald eagles don’t develop white feathers on their heads until they reach 5 or 6 years old, he explained, so part of his mission is to educate the public about the country’s national symbol.

A 3-year-old bald eagle named “Specs” made an appearance during Book’s presentation, where he shared information about bald eagles and other birds that have been rehabilitated at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center.

“All of our birds have some type of permanent injury or some reason we can’t turn them lose,” he said, explaining “Specs” is their newest education bird, and Tuesday was only his second time in front of an audience.

“Specs” is a spirited young male, and he got his name because he is much smaller than Book’s previous bald eagle, which was a large female named “Thunder.”

“He’s a good little guy,” Book said. “I think he’ll end up being a real ‘spectacular’ bird for us.”

Although he’s knew to crowds, the eagle stayed calm enough to pose for pictures with audience members at the end of the presentation.

Three youngsters who got up close to the bird were sisters Bella and Katlyn Tenney and their friend, Connor Lynch, all of French Creek.

“It was fun,” Katlyn Tenney said of listening to the bird presentation and seeing the eagle. She added Connor was making funny faces because he was so close to “Specs” that he was afraid it would have an accident. “Connor said, ‘I’m so lucky he didn’t poop on me,’” she said with a laugh.

The presentation also included “Neo” the broad winged hawk, and “Chatter,” the eastern screech owl.

In addition to Book, other volunteers taking part in the bird presentation included Susanne Coulson, Jessica Valentine and Lauren Hutzell-Moore.

In addition to the raptors, other attractions Tuesday at the Wildlife Center included education stations about building bird feeders, identifying animal tracks and re-nesting birds that have fallen out of their nest; information about eagle nests and their wingspan; birthday cake and refreshments for West Virginia’s birthday; and a dunking booth where children could try to send Wildlife Center employees and others into a water tank.

“That has been the most fun,” said Wildlife Center secretary Judy Channell, mentioning how thankful she was that Broad Street Church in Weston donated the dunking booth for use during Tuesday’s celebration.

Channell added that everyone seemed to have a nice time overall.

“We had a great turnout today. The weather has been beautiful, and the Raptor Center always pulls in a crowd,” she said, explaining this year had a bird theme, and last year’s celebration had a fish theme.

She said the Wildlife Center hosts other family-friendly activities throughout the year. More information about the West Virginia Wildlife Center, which is operated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, is available at www.wvdnr.gov or by calling 304-924-6211.

Additional information about the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center is available at www.wvrrc.org

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