PRESTONSBURG – One new attraction that turned a few heads this year at Jenny Wiley Festival was the inclusion of several birds of prey from the Letcher County Extension office.
Mitch Whitaker, 4H Program Assistant, with the Letcher County extension office brought three birds to his exhibit including a Great Horned Owl, an Eastern Screech Owl, and a mature Red-Tailed hawk. The program was located in the field with the Native American groups.
The birds that Mitch brought with him are all rehab birds that were found wounded in the wild, and unable to be released due to the severity of their injuries.
“These birds would normally be euthanized because they can’t take care of themselves in the wild,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker is a Master Falconer, sponsored by the Federal Fish and Wildlife. The bird rescue program is in its fifth year.
“We’ve rescued about 120 birds since the program began. We released about 4o of those back into the wild.”
According to Whitaker the birds come into their possession after being reported to them by contacts around Eastern Kentucky. Reports made to the local Fish and Wildlife groups in area will normally be put in touch with Whitaker’s group out of Whitesburg.
Whitaker says the birds that don’t get released are simply incapable of fending for themselves.
“These birds take a chance every time they hunt. If they get injured, ding their wing or something, they are pretty much done.”
The Letcher County Extension Office is part of the University of Kentucky’s and Kentucky State University’s off-campus information networks, and serve as partners in conducting educational programs through Cooperative Extension. The program delivery process involves Extension faculty, county agents, advisory council members, volunteer leaders and the general public.
Whitaker says that he takes his birds to three to four programs a week on average. He says the program does not charge to visit schools, and asks only for a donation of mileage to cover the costs of travel and help tend to the birds.
For more information on the Letcher County Cooperative Extension office, or to schedule a program; call (606) 633-2362.