13th Annual Walk For Wildlife: An Opossum Posse

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | wild green bay | sept. 2018

As summer transitions to cooler weather, the landscape changes from green to yellow, orange and red as Mother Nature begins her showiest season. Families begin their favorite fall activities and head to the pumpkin patches and apple orchards. If your family loves being outdoors why not add a new tradition this year by joining the 13th annual Walk for Wildlife, a yearly fundraising event hosted by the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.

Each September, regardless of weather, the walk serves as the primary fundraiser for RPAWS (Rehabilitation Program at the Wildlife Sanctuary), a program that provides care and rehabilitation with the goal of an eventual release for the more than 5,000 orphaned or injured animals each year. RPAWS works in cooperation with the DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Thus far in 2018, more than 3,000 animals have come through the sanctuary doors needing assistance.

The sanctuary's beautiful 700 acres are always open to visitors, but during the walk some 2.5 miles of friendly trails are lined with learning stations that are both fun and educational, with many stations featuring a live animal ambassador as well as unique artifacts.

Each year the walk features a different animal mascot with the hawk, cougar, owl, eagle, turtle, fox, wolf and porcupine all taking a turn. This year's chosen mascot is the opossum. Sanctuary curator Lori Bankson explains how this often-misunderstood animal lends a helping hand to nature.

“Opossums are one of the most unique animals that live in Wisconsin. They have over 50 teeth; they eat ticks and clean up 'nature's garbage' by being scavengers. They are a species that used to be in the southern environment but now they are moving more north."

The Sanctuary's own Petunia the Opossum along with many other featured animal ambassadors will be on hand during the walk.

“Being that this is our 13th year," explains Bankson, “we'll have a lot of the public's favorite animals. We will have our one-year old-skunks, our many birds of prey, our wolf interaction each hour and many more!"

These stations will have plenty of photo opportunities along with volunteers on hand to answer questions.

“Here at the sanctuary, we want people to be able to experience nature, wildlife and the outdoors … having a free city park that offers these engaging programs and the ability to get up close and personal with the animals that cannot go back into the wild is a wonderful feature in Green Bay," says Bankson.

Following the sanctuary's mission and a yearly tradition, visitors will see a newly rehabbed animal released back into the wild after the Walk Welcome at 8:15 a.m.

Money raised during the walk makes it possible for the sanctuary to purchase special food and equipment necessary to the care of its ill or injured animals. Last year the walk raised more than $16,000 that went directly to the 5,500 animals admitted during 2017.

“Many of those funds went to necessary medicines, formula and critical care items for us to reach our 75 percent release rate," says Bankson.

This year the sanctuary is looking to acquire more outdoor caging for their bats and young birds of prey. With the current plight of the four species of bat on Wisconsin's endangered list, funds from last year's walk helped care for more than 50 bats that hibernated at the sanctuary during the winter. All of them were released back into the wild this past spring.

Other special needs included thermometers, baby formula, baby food, bedding and heating pads and were all purchased directly from this fund.

Following the walk, a fully stocked refreshment area will offer a variety of baked treats, fruit, coffee, water and juice. The Good News Band will be playing live music throughout the event.

Visitors and walkers may want to peruse the many items in the Raffle Tent. A wide range of items will be available including gift certificates to area restaurants and businesses, themed gift baskets, yoga parties, art photos, artwork and much more.

“It's a great event," says Bankson. “There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into the preparation … that's what makes the walk so unique. The volunteers and the community put so much of themselves into it.

“Wildlife rehabilitation goes hand in hand with caring for the environment. With the RPAWS program, we are able to help wildlife and assist the people that care about these animals."

To register you and your family for the 13th Annual Walk For Wildlife or for more information on the sanctuary, please visit baybeachwildlife.com.


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