FRANKFORT - Kids can learn what it’s like to become wildlife during a special series of spring break programs April 2-6 at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort.
In honor of Salato’s newest resident-a rambunctious male bobcat that arrived in February-kids can attend Bobcat Boot Camp throughout the week. Kids can pit their athletic prowess against the abilities of a bobcat by seeing if they can jump as far or walk as silently across sticks and leaves.
Kids also can bring out their inner amphibian on the frog course or become a bear and experience a culvert trap. These programs are being offered throughout the day.
Families might get a close look at some surprise animal visitors as well. You never know when a Salato employee will bring out a snake for kids to touch-or arrive with an owl perched on a gloved hand.
Salato’s attractions include a bear, two bobcats, turkeys, deer, an eagle, a flying squirrel, bison, elk and a variety of birds. The newly constructed raptor aviary will give the bird on display a chance to spread its wings.
Other natural attractions include a marsh, a waterfall to walk underneath and miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate.
If the weather is cold, visitors can warm up in the center itself. Inside attractions include a giant live snapping turtle, Kentucky’s most dangerous snakes, aquariums with some oversized native fish, a window wall to watch the birds outside and educational displays featuring wildlife and fish.
Families can learn how hatcheries work while the kids try their hand at running an electrofishing boat and netting fish.
The Salato Center is operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The center is located off U.S. 60, approximately 1 1/2 miles west of the U.S. 127 intersection. Look for the bronze deer statue at the entrance of the main Kentucky Fish and Wildlife campus.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Salato is closed on Sundays, Mondays and state holidays. Find more information about the center online at fw.ky.gov. The Salato Center is rated one of Frankfort’s top attractions by tripadvisor.com.
Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for youth 5 to 18. Children under 5 are admitted free. The center also offers annual memberships for individuals and families.
Salato Center staff members have free loaner fishing rods for families wishing to fish in the two fishing lakes on the department’s main grounds. The lakes have picnic areas and restrooms nearby. Several dozen Canada geese and a handful of mallard ducks reside on the lakes.
Researchers seek public’s help in locating barn owl nesting locations: Researchers need the public’s help in finding more nesting sites of Kentucky’s remaining barn owls.
Barn owls, with their distinctive heart-shaped faces and dark eyes, were plentiful across Kentucky as late as the 1960s. Currently, however, there are only about 25 documented nesting locations statewide.
Wildlife biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources need to locate as many barn owl nesting sites as possible to gain a deeper understanding of why this species has declined in the state.
Barn owls have gradually lost their historic nesting and foraging habitat as landowners cut down the old trees damaged by storms and converted pastures, hayfields and grasslands to row crops. Biologists, however, are looking for additional reasons for the decline. Researchers are also asking for the public to report any dead barn owls, so that specimens can be collected and examined.
Other more common owl species are often confused with barn owls. Barn owls have no ear tufts. They are a medium-sized bird, measuring 14-20 inches tall. However, they can appear larger when in flight due to their 3 1/2-foot wingspan. Barn owls have a whitish face and breast with whitish to pale cinnamon bodies. They do not hoot like some owls species. Instead, they screech and hiss, especially when approached. For more information on identifying barn owls, please see the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife webpage at: http://fw.ky.gov/owlidentification.asp.
Barn owls prefer open areas such as hayfields and pasture; they are usually not found in the woods. Although they often nest in hollow trees, barn owls also regularly nest in manmade structures such as old barns, silos, grain bins, chimneys, hay lofts and attics. They also may settle in older residential areas that have larger, cavity-prone trees.
Barn owls can nest year-round in Kentucky, although most of the nesting activity occurs from March through August. They do not build a nest of sticks and grass. Instead, they will lay their eggs directly on the surface of the nest site they choose.
For more information about barn owls in Kentucky and the research project, go online to http://fw.ky.gov/barnowls.asp.
Anyone with information about the location of a barn owl nest or a dead barn owl should contact Wildlife Biologist Kate Heyden at 1-800-858-1549, ext. 4475. Observers can also e-mail Heyden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barn owls are sensitive to disturbance, so if a nest is found, it’s best to leave the owls be and avoid attracting attention to it. Researchers are careful to document nests without disturbing the owls.
For the protection of owls and landowners, exact nesting locations and landowner information is strictly confidential and will not be released to the public. Information provided to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for this study is used for research purposes only.