By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
The Belfry High School gym recently hosted rehabilitated birds as part of the Pike County 4-H, a school fair held to reward members for their work throughout the school year.
The fair at BHS was the second of five held scheduled for the county during the week.
Novella Froman, the 4-H agent for the county, said members from the Belfry area elementary and middle schools attended the fair.
“The students choose a project at the beginning of the school year, and those who complete their project, or give a speech, get to come to the fair,” Froman said.
School chapters enjoyed group activities that emphasized the values of the four H’s: Head - managing and thinking; Heart - relating and caring; Hands - giving and working; and Health - being and living.
Mitch Whitaker, a falconer with the Letcher County extension service, gave a presentation on birds of prey of Eastern Kentucky. Whitaker has developed a raptor rehabilitation program with the Letcher County 4-H Youth Development .
He brought several birds, including three types of owls.
“When we receive a bird, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife gives us 18 months to rehabilitate it enough to be released back into the wild,” Whitaker told the assembly. “If the birds can make it on their own after that, they are supposed to be euthanized. But, they let us keep these in to educate people about birds of prey.”
Whitaker pointed out that in nature only one in five raptors makes it through the first year.
“So they’re already fighting a losing battle. Oftentimes, these birds are shot by poachers just to get a quick look at them,” he said.
He said that when the birds are living in the wild, they are usually not injured. They are hurt through their contact with the human world.
“They are hurt by flying into windows or powerlines, or from being hit by cars,” he said. “It’s our responsibility, when we see these animals who are injured, to get them back in life.”