Educating the public is Brukner’s main goal
Deb Oexmann is a popular person around Brukner Nature Center. But her philosophy and message might not be understood by everyone.
Some people’s confusion comes from what she calls “circle of life” questions. Here’s an example:
A person calls her at Brukner and says, “Please come help! A hawk is swooping down and taking away song birds at my backyard feeder! What should I do?”
Her answer: “Don’t do anything.”
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that allowing that hawk to feed on smaller birds is the best thing,” said Oexmann, executive director at the center on Horseshoe Bend Road. “It’s all a part of nature. The predator has to eat and feed its family, too.
“And the predator is actually helping the prey population. They generally are taking animals that are sick or injured, animals that are not as good at getting away from them as their compadres. So, overall, they are making the prey population stronger.”
“It’s not easy to see and it’s not easy to explain to your kids, but it’s the way nature is meant to work.”
Every year, especially in the spring, people bring baby animals to Brukner, saying they found them abandoned and didn’t want to see them perish.
“Our policy is to call first,” she said. “We try to educate people on the phone. It will save them a trip and not cause undue stress on the baby animals. The main goal of our wildlife rehab unit is to educate people, not to rehabilitate animals,” she said. “There are times when we send the baby animals back.
“We don’t want to interfere. That’s the last thing we want to do. We want to help Mother Nature,” she said.
If an animal is orphaned, the center will likely take it in … if, say, the mother was hit by a car. But too often, the mother is hiding behind a nearby bush when someone finds four little baby bunnies in their yard.
Oexmann, who is a Fairmont East graduate, realizes it’s not easy for people to understand that a certain percentage of wild baby animals are born each year to wind up as food for other wild animals.
“I had a call from a very concerned lady trying desperately to rescue ducklings from a pond that harbored a snapping turtle,” Oexmann recalled. “She just didn’t understand the whole circle of life thing. Baby ducklings, baby rabbits, even baby snapping turtles are produced in abundance to support the next trophic level of the ecosystem. It is such an awesomely balanced system that we should feel honored to be a part of it.”
So Brukner and other wildlife rehab agencies aren’t in the business of rescuing wild animals in most cases. But Brukner takes in more than 1,000 animals each year. About 70 percent of those are injured. Oexmann said about a third of them survive to be released into the wild.”
“Our goal is to release as many of the animals we treat as possible and we try to take them back to the areas they came from.”
If you have a wildlife question, you can call Brukner at (937) 698-6493.
“We can give you great advice … if you would just listen,” she said.