Goblins and witches, pixies and superheroes enjoyed playing games, sampling treats and visiting with all types of animals on October 27 at the W.G. Jones State Forest on FM 1488 near Magnolia and The Woodlands. The site was the scene of the Friends of Texas Wildlife (FTWL) "Owl-O-Ween" fundraiser, which had more than 2,000 visitors. Not only did visitors come in costume, but several of the volunteers dressed as their favorite forest creature in honor of the occasion.
Highlights of the event included an hourly raffle, bungee-bounce jump, free photos with a larger-than-life raccoon, and a chance to hold snakes that were only too happy to stay wrapped around a warm wrist on the cool autumn afternoon. The Houston Zoo brought a real owl to the event - it was injured and not able to be returned to the wild, so it has a permanent home at the zoo. The owl is a perfect example of what FTWL is working for.
The FTWL is Montgomery County's only wild animal rehabilitation organization, and it depends entirely on donations and volunteers to help thousands of orphaned and injured animals every year. The organization conducts fundraisers such as this one to operate its Magnolia wildlife care facility and to teach community residents about the perils that wild animals face trying to survive in an increasingly urban environment.
Founded by Janette Winkleman in 1993, FTWL utilizes trained volunteer "rehabbers" to care for animals in their homes or at the FTWL Intake Center on Highland Boulevard in Magnolia. Rehabilitation includes feeding, often around-the-clock in the case of very young animals, veterinary care and training the animals how to obtain food for themselves. The goal is to release them into "safe" wild areas.
Often animals that appear to be abandoned are actually not left behind, and a caring parent is close by. Concerned citizens can do more harm than good by picking up wild animals and attempting to take care of them. Knowing what to do when encountering a wild animal that appears injured or orphaned is the best way for citizens to combat the devastation of wildlife.
"This was the best-attended event our organization has had. We are pleased that so many families in Magnolia and The Woodlands turned out for our fundraiser," said Winkleman, who is the president of FTWL. "It's important to educate young people about how they can co-exist with the wildlife in our community, and events like this provide knowledge they will carry with them into adulthood"
Several vendors provided games and crafts for sale. The Texas A&M Forest Service offered families a close-up view of some forest animals, and 911 Wildlife, a humane wildlife management organization, provided free photos with Rocky, the giant raccoon.
Besides raising much-needed funds, Friends of Texas Wildlife recruited new volunteers to help with animal care, fundraisers and activities. Their next event is called "The Enchanted Forest" and will be an educational hayride for all ages Dec. 1. It will again be held at the W.G. Jones State Forest.
FTWL's trained rehabbers have received permits from either Texas Parks and Wildlife or U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Rehabbers often begin training with someone who is already permitted and then take the training classes themselves. People who are interested in volunteering or donating should visit the website: www.ftwl.org.