2017-07-13 / Living

Howell nature center wows library crowd

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC – As only the majestic national bird of the United States can do, Kili the bald eagle wowed the sitting room only crowd at the McFarlen Library last week with his typical coloring, imperious bearing, and distinctive screeching cry.

Children of all ages and many adults filled the community room to see Kili and other animals who make their home at the nature center, in a special presentation by animal handler Stephanie Bussema, which featured not only Kili, but a three-legged opossum named Eileen (I-lean), the official Michigan Groundhog Woody (who is female), and Barney the box turtle.

Kili came to the Howell Nature center where Bussema works after being injured when his nest was tossed to the ground in a severe storm. Part of his left wing is amputated, and like the others, he is housed as he is not likely to survive without human assistance.

Bussema stated Kili was young enough at the time of his rescue that he was imprinted and believes his human caregivers are his people. Bald Eagle nests are big enough she said that a grown man could lay down in them and often weigh as much as a small car. They are often built of sticks and lined with leaves grass and straw or their own feathers.

Kili lost a small feather during the demonstration, and in accordance with federal law, it was retained by Bussema as it is illegal to possess them, as well as many other bird feathers. She explained this is a result of the Migratory Bird Act which prevented the extinction of many birds who used to be killed just for use of their beautiful plumage for fashion.

Kili’s sibling was able to be raised in another nest by foster parent eagles according to Bussema. The distinctive coloring of the bald eagle with the white heads and tails doesn’t occur until they are about four years old she said and occurs in both sexes, but the female birds are usually larger than the males.

The nature center mostly feeds him dead rats, but when fish is available he is given that and has a special dance he does because he loves fish more. All of the animals featured were ones which build or decorate their own homes.

One of those guests included Woody, the state official woodchuck, or ground hog, and Bussema explained about hibernation and how ground hogs build their dens.

Groundhog tunnels can be up to eight feet long and often have rooms off to the side for various purposes such as sleep, or bathroom purposes. During hibernation, their heartbeat slows to about 6 beats a minute and one breath every hour.

Eileen is only housed at the nature center due to her disability, but the center takes in many orphaned opossums during the year and Bussema invited residents to feel free to check dead opossums on the roadway for babies which they can rehabilitate into the wild.

Opossums are North America’s only marsupials, or animals who raise their babies in pouches, and perform the valuable service of eating ticks.

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