Strasburg kids meet Virginia wildlife

Alex Wehrung, an outreach coordinator for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, shows off a broad-winged hawk named Grayson to children inside Strasburg Community Library on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily
Raina Krasner, an outreach coordinator for the Virginia Wildlife Center, holds Delphine, an opossum that was struck by a car near their Waynesboro facility, and nursed back to health. Rich Cooley/Daily
Alex Wehrung, an outreach coordinator for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, shows a box turtle named Wilson to children inside Strasburg Community Library on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Children and their families gathered at the Strasburg Community Library on Wednesday to get an up-close and personal look at some of the critters that live in their backyards.

Outreach coordinators Raina Krasner and Alex Wehrung from the Wildlife Center of Virginia presented the Home Sweet Habitat program and introduced their audience to three native Virginian species: Delphine the opossum, Wilson the Eastern box turtle and Grayson the broad-winged hawk.

Krasner explained that the three are education animals because their injuries have prevented them from being released back into the wild. She introduced the opossum, who was on her second week on the job as an educational animal after being hit by a car while carrying a pouch full of babies. The opossum later recovered and raised all nine of her babies even with slightly impaired sight.

“They’re pretty comfortable around people – we work very hard on that,” Krasner said of the education animals after the presentation. “It’s not natural for them to be comfortable around humans. With Delphine, she can’t see very well, she’s pretty new at this, so if there’s sudden movements or loud noises she’s jumpier. But that will likely fade over time.”

Wehrung told those in the crowded reading room about the Eastern box turtle with its hibernation cycle and the broad-winged hawk with its eating habits. Krasner finished off the presentation by explaining the potential consequences of littering for some of these native species and telling kids how to call and help wild animals they might encounter.

Owen Kowalski, 9, from Strasburg, said he thought the broad-winged hawk was the most interesting animal he saw up close.

“I think I’ve seen one before – I think one got stuck in our garage window once,” he said.

Abby Proko, 9, from Strasburg, said she liked meeting the opossum and didn’t know that, as a marsupial, it carries its babies around. She also said she found what might’ve been an Eastern box turtle by the river about a month ago.

“The turtle was cool because it was just full of colors,” she said.

The coordinators stuck around for a few minutes to answer questions before leaving to present at the Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg. Krasner said they travel around the state with their educational programs and have presented at Shenandoah schools in the past.

“Typically for our programs, we include an opossum because they’re a more maligned animal and we like to share some positive information about them,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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