Wilton’s Woodcock Nature Center is more than just 149 unspoiled acres of pond, wetlands and publicly accessible trails. The Nature Center is also home to a variety of living local and exotic animals including over thirty reptiles and amphibians and a handful of injured birds of prey:  two barred owls, one great horned owl and one red tailed hawk.

All of the animals are an important part of Woodcock’s mission as a resource for educating the community about its natural surroundings through public outreach, school field trips and visits, on-site birthday parties and the extremely popular summer camps.

“These animal educators are essential to our programming; they are part of the team here at Woodcock,” says executive director Lenore Herbst.

The human staff at Woodcock works hard to care for these creatures, from making sure they see the veterinarian regularly to feeding a balanced diet and keeping the temperature just right in their environments. That carries a hefty price tag, to the tune of more than $15,000 per year–a significant cost to a small nonprofit like the Nature Center.

To support animal care-related expenses, the nature center has kicked off a summer “Feeding Frenzy” fundraising campaign. Feeding the animals takes more than a nibble out of the nature center’s annual budget, and Woodcock staff is hoping the community will help the Nature Center meet that need.

These hard-working ambassador animals build up quite an appetite:  Woodcock’s hawks and owls chow down on 500 mice, rats and chicks each month and the resident reptiles and amphibians eat over 5 pounds of veggies, 10,000 mealworms, and 12 dozen crickets.

“Our resident animals teach summer campers about habitats and animal behavior, they visit schools as part of our outreach programming, and they serve as a draw for daily visitors,” Herbst notes. “Interactions with a wide variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles opens the door to a deeper understanding and appreciation for our natural world.”

Members of the community are encouraged to donate–any amount is appreciated and all donations are tax-deductible and can be made online. Individual animals can also be “adopted” though a unique “Adopt an Animal” program. Members of the community can learn more on Woodcock’s website, and are also invited to visit the animals regularly (the best times are listed online).

GOOD Morning Wilton had the opportunity to visit Woodcock Nature Center and meet Dakota, the Center’s red tailed hawk. Dakota was hit by a car and injured so badly–she’s missing half a wing and is blind in one eye–she can’t live in the wild or hunt for food on her own. Not only has Woodcock taken care of Dakota, but she has helped teach visitors (like the children attending the Nature Center’s summer day camp) how humans can better treat the wildlife with whom we share the environment.

The Woodcock Nature Center Preserve is a haven for aquatic life and a remarkable variety of birds. Along the trails are historic stone walls and stands of old maple, beech, oak and hickory trees. An Everglades-style boardwalk allows rare access through part of the rich, abundant wetlands nestled in the woods. In these graceful surroundings, young and old can experience the rich, renewing world of nature. Woodland trails are open to all, sunrise to sunset, every day of the year.

For a complete schedule of activities visit the Woodcock Nature Center’s website. Woodcock Nature Center is located at 56 Deer Run Rd. in Wilton.