BY MELANIE BUCK
Wildlife Rehabilitator Tommy Young of the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center would like to invite hard workers and lovers of nature to his volunteer Saturdays. Volunteers are needed at the Center on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to assist with cleanup from weather-damaged areas from earlier in the year.
In addition to the repairs and cleanup, Young is also asking for donations to help keep the Center running. The Center has reached an all-time low in donations and is in need of dog food, grain, and meat, as well as monetary donations.
For the last 32 years, injured & orphaned wildlife from all over the state have been brought to Young for rehabilitation. On an average, 2-7 people each week bring animals in to be cared for. The Center does not have any local, state, or federal funding. He solely depends on the public for donations to support the Center. Contrary to rumor, the Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Center is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and has been for the past 25 years.
Lyn Dilbeck of the Ouachita Cherokees is a supporter of the Center and explained some of the issues that Young is facing. “This has been an extremely hard year for Tommy. He has several chronic health issues that are a result of caring for the many residents at the Center over the years. The effects of tick fever, rabbit fever, and human parvo are really beginning to take their toll on his joints and work activity.
He is in desperate need of any kind of utility vehicle or old 4-wheeler to haul feed & water, to keep up with all the chores involved,” said Dilbeck.
Currently at the Center are more than a dozen fawn, several fox, raccoons, birds of prey, and even skunks. Young also has a baby barn owl that is the first one known to have been born in Polk County in more than 20 years. Young said that over that last 20 years, he has released more than 60 pairs of barn owls (that originated from other areas in the state) in the County, hoping to encourage the breeding process here. “Barn owls used to live in the hollow trunks of trees that were at least six feet in diameter but we don’t have many of those left. After the large trees were gone, they started nesting in barn lofts, hence the name barn owl, but now, there aren’t really many of those left either so they just weren’t nesting in Polk County anymore,” explained Young. The baby barn owl that he has now was from a pair that was released at Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport some time ago. The baby flew into a window at the airport and was injured so Young is rehabilitating the young critter before he too will be released, just like his parents were.
Many of the 150-plus animals at the Center, including the barn owl, are also still in need of sponsors. With your sponsorship, you will be able to assist in the release of the animal in the fall.
“We live in an area that is blessed with clear creeks, beautiful mountains, and abundant wildlife. Our wildlife is one of our greatest natural resources. I would hate to see us loose a place for the injured & orphaned wildlife to be cared for. It is very discouraging to look into the eyes of little orphaned babies or injured wildlife not knowing if tomorrow will bring the funds to feed them,” said Dilbeck.
She went on, “I am asking for the help of our local people. It is time for those who have never helped to please step up to the plate and lend a hand. If we want to continue to keep this Wildlife Sanctuary receiving animals, something must change.
I have come up with a few ideas on how to accomplish this. First, the immediate need…I have a group of ladies, “The Otters,” that will match the first $400.00 that are donated to the Center.” Dilbeck explained that this is a great way to increase your donation. You can send your checks to P.O. Box 1881, Mena, AR 71953. And, Dilbeck also said that 100% of all donations are tax deductible and go only to the care and feeding of the animals at the Center.
If you don’t want to make a cash donation, you can go the Polk County Farmers Co-op, at 318 Hwy 71S, and purchase a sack of corn, dog food or grain, and they will hold it for Young to pick up. It is also possible to credit the Wildlife Center’s account with a cash or credit card gift that can be used by the Center to purchase the feed that is needed. You can reach the Co-op at 479-394-3373.
“Another great way to help the Center on a regular basis is to give monthly. I don’t have much left over each month, but I can afford a little. I went to my bank, told them I wanted to have $5.00 taken out of my account and sent to the Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Center each month. The Center has accounts at both Bear State Bank & the Union Bank of Mena. You have to go into your bank in person to have this done. Your bank will call the Wildlife Center’s bank for the account number. It will take you about 5-10 minutes to do this. $5.00 doesn’t sound like very much and its not; if you can do $10 or $20, that’s great!! But this is a way for a lot of us to get together, do a little, and make a huge difference. If we can get 100 people to donate this way, all of the animals would be fed and cared for. The fundraisers we’ve done in the past are good, but when the money is gone you have to start all over again. This would free up time and energy to care for the wildlife and not have to worry about where the next meals are coming from,” explained a passionate Dilbeck.
You can also catch Young at the Center to volunteer, bring a donation, or an animal. The Center is located on Hwy. 270, in the Rich Mountain Community, or call ahead at 479-437-3750.