Over the weekend I went with my family to check out the second annual Friends of Texas Wildlife fundraiser at W.G. Jones State Forest.
When we arrived there were kids with freshly painted faces battling it out in inflatable plastic balls while artists selling their creations near the pumpkin patch attempted to speak with guests of the event over the loud announcer calling out raffle winners.
It was a little chaotic at first with so much going on at once, but fun just the same.
My family had been at the festival for most of the day while I had been at home napping most of the day (that’s what weekends are for right?). Tired as I may have been, I hate when I sleep the weekend away so I made it my goal to at least make it up there for the “Wildlife Hay Ride”.
We purchased our tickets (and some popcorn) and got in the short line for the ride.
When we finally climbed into the back of the hay filled tractor the children in the tractor began to get excited and started calling out the names of animals they hoped they would see.
We came to our first stop and the guide in our tractor exclaimed, “Shhhh! Do you all hear that?”
My group got very quite as she shined her light toward a tree stump in the distance…
“Why I think that’s an owl!”
We all looked over to see a freshly taxidermied owl sitting perched in the former tree.
The ride continued on until we heard another, “Shhhh…” from our guide.
“Look over there!”
Once again we followed her light to find a stuffed armadillo in the bushes.
One of the children who was maybe around four raised his hand and asked, “Are all the animals in this forest fake?”
The guide laughed knowing there was no point in continuing to pretend the animals we were seeing were alive and continued on with our tour where we eventually stopped at a few educational booths to learn about different animals that are indigenous to our area.
It was a little disappointing not actually seeing any live animals, but I understand where they were coming from. The goal of the event was to raise funds and promote a peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife through education. By simply seeing what the animals looked like, alive or not, I think the children gained a good understanding of what we share our area with.
There were a few live animals for us to view… mainly snakes.
The live copperheads that they had for us to examine at the snake stop on the hay ride was pretty neat. Copperheads are pretty poisonous and love to frequent our yards here but we also have some non-poisonous snakes in our area and I was never very sure how to differentiate between the two.
While the poisonous critters were kept in a glass container for us to view, we were allowed to pet and hold the friendlier snakes. I think the snakes were everyone’s favorite part of the ride.
According to the volunteers of the event, this was the Friends of Texas Wildlife’s only fundraising event that they hold each year.
The Friends of Texas Wildlife program, which has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife since 1986, is funded by donations and sponsorships from the community. The organization receives no state or government assistance and features an all-volunteer staff of about 20 people.
If people in my area are looking for a place to take a baby bird, or an injured armadillo, Friends of Texas Wildlife are the people to contact. The group focuses on animal intake of native Texas wildlife, including raccoons, birds, deer, opossums and even snakes. Rescued animals are taken in by volunteer rehabbers and nursed back to health by whatever means necessary until they are healthy enough to be released into the state park or another location best suited for the animal.
Apparently they had 5,000 patrons attend their annual fundraising event this year, all in a single weekend!