By Gaby Gerken
During my time with Conservation Corps we have worked entirely with plants. We’ve cut buckthorn and cleared firebreaks, planted natives and picked weeds. It’s been great learning to identify things we haven’t seen or heard of before but one thing we have all been missing is wildlife.
That said, we have recently had the opportunity to rescue some animals! First there was the turtle incident at our work site next to a few lakes. Between the roar of the semi trucks we managed to save three painted turtles that were attempting to cross the road. Would they have made it on their own? Probably, but there is always the chance that they could have been accidentally (or intentionally…) run over and, trust me, seeing a crushed turtle could make you cry. Always break for the turtles and, if it’s safe, try stopping to help them across quick!
The second incident came when I found a monarch caterpillar. I’ve become a bit obsessed with saving them this year and I definitely have the Corps to thank for that. Months ago we stumbled upon a plant that we identified as milkweed. Technically it is a weed and does not belong in the rain gardens we were maintaining, but according to the invasive species handbooks we should take measures to leave it when possible. Across the U.S. monarchs are dying, probably the result of habitat loss due to urban sprawl and pesticides. Therefore, when we see milkweed we leave it.
Anyways, amongst the plants I happened to find a caterpillar and decided to take him home in a mason jar. I fed him milkweed daily until eventually he formed a chrysalis; thirteen days later I had a beautiful butterfly in my hands. It was an easy “pet” to take care of
and I plan on finding more throughout summers to come.
Last but not least, there was the day we rescued a muskrat. Every few months Corps members are given an education day and the latest one involved canoeing down part of the St. Croix River. While we were out in the middle of the river a fellow Corps member happened upon a muskrat struggling in the water! She reached out her paddle and the animal clung desperately onto it. We decided he must have gotten caught in the current and we couldn’t just leave him in the middle of the river, so he was placed on top of a kayak and caught a ride to the shore downstream.
During our time in the Conservation Corps we may not get to work closely with animals but it’s exciting to come across some rescue situations! It’s a refreshing break during our days with the plants. Hopefully more to come next month!