BY MELANIE BUCK –
Filled with the knowledge, scars, and sleepless nights of decades of caring for animals, wildlife rehabilitator Tommy Young has accomplished a fete that few have – rehabilitating and releasing thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and more – and was proud to announce his 80,000th release on Saturday, January 30th, 2016 amongst more than 100 of his biggest supporters at Lake Wilhelmina.
In a day that was led by fundraising coordinator Lyn Dilbeck, hundreds watched as Young handled each bird as if they were his own young as oohs, aahs, and the occasional gasp came from the crowd. On this particular day, two hawks and one owl were sent back into the wild and a smiling rehabilitator took pride that his work had been done.
Children were amazed at the size and beauty of the creatures while adults were in awe of the care given to each one and the knowledge of each that flowed from Young’s passionate heart. He also recognized his crew and his beloved wife, LaVonda, who is the ‘formula lady’ and creates special formulas for each species of babies. “I couldn’t do this without this team and I also couldn’t do this without all of you bringing injured animals to the zoo,” said Young.
As Dilbeck and her Otter Drum Circle played songs of blessings, the first release of the day was made by Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Ray Hines. A Bard Owl that came in months ago was healed by Young’s persistence and flew to the nearest cedar tree upon being released.
The hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Sharpshin Hawk were also released. A young lady from Hot Springs was given the honor of one release and Young and his wife stood together at the last release as he held onto the large bird of prey. “Thanks for all of these years. I can’t believe we’ve hit 80,000. I couldn’t have done it without you,” he smiled and said to LaVonda as the bird took flight.
For more information on Tommy Young and the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center or to donate or assist in any way, call 479-437-3750. The Center is always in need of donations, whether monetary or by purchasing feed or milk replacers, and welcomes the help of others.