Haddonfield natives Kyla Schmeck and Rose Bogina were immersed in wildlife conservation efforts this summer. Their primary responsibility was caring for, and then releasing two great horned owls into Haddonfield’s Crows Woods Gardens ecosystem.
Schmeck and Bogina – who have known each other since middle school and participated on the same soccer and track teams all four years of high school – started nursing the two brother owls when the birds were admitted as babies to Cedar Run Wildlife Hospital in Medford. They served as volunteers for the operation, which rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife throughout the state.
“The internship was a 12-week full-time, unpaid summer internship. (In addition to the owls), we were able to work with raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, fawns, songbirds, waterfowl and other raptors native to New Jersey. We would hand-feed and tube-feed animals up to five times a day as well as administer any necessary medications or treatments. We also would provide the animals with daily enrichment to keep their minds stimulated,” Bogina, who is embarking on her senior year at Rutgers-New Brunswick, explained.
Schmeck, the daughter of Crows Woods Gardens president Paul Schmeck, has been a member of the gardens for the last eight years as membership coordinator. She has just begun her senior year at the University of Vermont.
“The owls were fed various protein sources which included dead and live mice, among other types of meat. The mice were a crucial part in their rehabilitation – they would be released into the owls’ enclosure and the owls would hunt them for their meal. This reinforced their natural instinct to hunt and strengthened their survival skills,” Schmeck explained.
“They were not our pets, as it is illegal to keep wildlife as pets. The owls did, however, become our special project and we would test their hunting ability daily.”
Bogina has always wanted to become a veterinarian due to her strong love for animals and desire to help them. She is also interested in ecology and conservation of natural wildlife and habitats, which spurred her desire to assist with wildlife rehabilitation. She chose Rutgers for its great animal science program and to save money for vet school by staying in-state to continue her education.
Schmeck fell in love with the university due to its competitive programs in both wildlife biology and animal science, and the state itself because of its mountains and Lake Champlain providing many outdoor opportunities and activities. She hopes to work with wildlife and conservation of species, while planning on furthering her studies either through hands-on animal work or research and wildlife management opportunities.
“The highlight of our days at Cedar Run would be checking in on the owls and feeding them. We would feed them live mice so they could practice hunting every day. We both appreciated and respected the beauty and strength of the owls as they grew and matured in front of our eyes,” Bogina said.
The owls were released at the gardens back on Aug. 1, intended to decrease the rising population of smaller critters who have snacked on various plants after the departure of Boo the cat from the gardens about a year ago.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience to watch the owls grow and have the chance to release them back into the wild. I would say releasing them was the highlight of our summer internship. Being able to give back to the community and contribute to the ecosystem at Crows Woods was a very unique experience,” Bogina added.
Cedar Run is a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and education center that takes in approximately 5,000 animals a year. It is run largely by volunteers who assist the director and assistant director year round. Cedar Run receives no federal, state, or city funding and completely relies on donations and the generosity of the public. For more information, to donate, or to become a volunteer, visit: cedarrun.org.