Ryan DePauw, a naturalist with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, would normally show off two owls – an eastern screech owl and great horned owl – to a crowd of kids at a school or library.
But due to COVID-19, DePauw livestreams his “Two Owls and a Naturalist” program from the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook to ensure the pandemic doesn’t put a halt to wildlife education.
“What we want to do is teach people about the animals found right here in the forest preserves, but also animals that they might see in their neighborhood and backyard,” DePauw said. “These animals and the plants we talk about play an important role in the environment and our hope is by bringing a screech owl out and people an opportunity to see them, people will want to understand and care for the animals they see.”
Naturalists care for indigenous birds, reptiles and fish in five of these six buildings. Many of the animals were injured, rehabilitated at nearby wildlife centers and brought to the forest preserve.
“We are able to work with these birds because they have an injury where they can’t survive in the wild on their own,” DePauw said. “These birds come to the nature center where hopefully we can give them a good home and good quality of life.”
Captivity can make for a longer life, according to DePauw – he said a larger bird of prey like the great horned owl can live for 12 to 15 years in the wild, but up to 30 years in captivity.
A spokeswoman said the the district will continue its virtual programming, which includes history, arts and fitness-based events, while rolling out more outdoor activities with safety guidelines.
The Cook County Forest Preserve’s six nature centers are located here:
Crabtree Nature Center
3 Stover Road
Barrington Hills, 60010
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
9800 Willow Springs Road
Willow Springs, 60480
River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Ave.
Sagawau Environmental Learning Center
12545 West 111th St.
Sand Ridge Nature Center
15891 Paxton Ave.
South Holland, 60473
Trailside Museum of Natural History
738 Thatcher Ave.
River Forest, 60305
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