Reflections from a wildlife specialist

It was not an easy decision for me to make, as I love my job with the district, but sometimes we all need to make a change. It was time for me. Thirteen years is a long time, and I have learned a lot. So, as my last article, I thought I’d talk about some of the things I’ve learned as an education/wildlife specialist.

Education is what I was originally hired to do, but as budgets grew tighter, I assumed the wildlife specialist role as well. It was an easy thing for me to do, wildlife is my passion and educating people about wildlife is something I consider vitally important. As a wildlife specialist, I have worked with countless homeowners on issues with nuisance wildlife, from bats in the attic, to raccoons in the chimney.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, I am constantly reminded the there is still good left in this world. Kindness and empathy toward other living things is what makes us human, and in the world we live in today, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. The animals that come in to our care are brought by people who cared enough to help them. We do what we can for injured and orphaned animals, but it starts with one person.

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is that I have the experiences of working with wild animals, and I’m equally grateful for those individuals who bring them to us.

Education is what the Muskingum SWCD is all about. The district does not just do education in classrooms, or just with children. Our Urban Greens project is about educating people about where food comes from, how to grow your own food, and eat healthier. The program reaches people in the Putnam area who lack access to fresh food, and often live in a place where they can’t grow their own food. Our community gardens address both these issues and the food grown in one of the gardens goes into the Zanesville City Schools summer lunch program.

We offer many community events, from the ATV Conservation Tour, to canning workshops, movie nights in the park, backyard conservation workshops, and Kids Conservation Camp. We have a forester on staff to assist landowners, and an agricultural technician who assists farmers. The district is vital to Muskingum County and there are few people who have not used the district’s services at least once. We help make Muskingum County a better place to live.

Finally, I have met some amazing people in my position here and that has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. Many of the kids in my summer Kids Conservation Camp have spent countless summers with me, and I have watched them grow up into amazing people. I have met people in the community that want to make a difference and strive to always help others. I’ve worked with people who shared my visions of the world, and some who have not, but I have learned from all of them and each impacted me in a positive way.

In the end, conservation is about people, and that is what I will miss most as I leave this place. Muskingum County is a wonderful place to live. I encourage you all to get outside, look for some salamanders, plant milkweed for monarchs, take your kids fishing, whatever experience that sparks your interest, and gives you a passion for nature.

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