Placerita Canyon Nature Center brings back live animal presentations after pandemic hiatus

Sandra Cattell, a docent naturalist at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, said she’s always had a passion for the great outdoors.

Cattell said she has hiked and ridden Placerita’s trails overwhelming Santa Clarita’s natural beauty as a resident for more than 40 years.

Now a retired math teacher, Cattell continues to educate young people about wildlife and share her enthusiasm for nature by volunteering at the same nature center that sparked her love for the environment.

“I love seeing the awe, wonder and excitement in the eyes and faces of the kids,” Cattell said. “I love talking about how everything is interconnected and helping them understand their responsibility to help run the Earth.”

Docent-naturalist Sandra Cattell talks about the anatomy of a spider during a presentation of living animals at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

After a hiatus due to the pandemic, the Placerita Canyon Nature Center has brought back its free Live Animal Presentations, in which they feature animals that reside in the canyon and educate attendees about animal behaviors, every first and third Saturday. of the month.

The docent-naturalists lead the show and invite the public to interact by answering questions.

Danny Truger, a docent-naturalist who has worked at the nature center for 10 years, said he has always admired the outdoors and that teaching children in the public about nature gives him great pleasure.

“I just love seeing little kids’ faces light up,” Truger said. “It gives me a lot of joy when they are excited.”

Docent-naturalist Rick Brammer holds a red-tailed hawk named Aiyana during a live animal presentation at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

Herb Broutt, docent-naturalist and corresponding secretary at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, said they brought out snakes, owls, lizards and turtles, as well as a red-tailed hawk and a “sleeping skunk.”

According to Broutt, all of the animals they show were donated by members of the community or were injured in an incident and brought to the nature center to be rehabilitated. Once brought there, Broutt said they couldn’t release them into the wild because they couldn’t take care of themselves.

“One of our birds was stuck in the wheel well of an airplane,” Broutt said. “One of the benefits of being here is that some animals probably live three or four years outside, but here some of our owls and birds have lived 10 to 15 to 20 years. So we take very good care of them. them.

A 15-year-old great horned owl named Sierra is one of the birds on display during live animal displays at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Chris Torres/The Signal

Before the pandemic, Broutt said the nature center would hold school tours four days a week, where 50 to 60 students from various schools would interact with the animals in the outdoor patio and in the museum’s indoor area.

“The pandemic was really sad,” Broutt said. “We no longer had school visits. They closed the office for over a year so we couldn’t even have anyone in the office. You could hike the trails, but that was about it.

Broutt said the animals had been negatively affected by the pandemic because they had little to no human interaction.

“The animals felt lonely because no one was playing with them,” Broutt said. “I actually came here on a Saturday and thought, ‘Let me get a snake out,’ and when I put my hand in the [terrarium], he bit me because he thought I was food. The snake was like, ‘I’m not used to this. This hasn’t happened for a while.

The nature center has adapted to the pandemic by offering Zoom programs, including a virtual tour of the facility and the plethora of hiking trails zigzagging through the canyon.

In order to become a docent-naturalist, Cattell said volunteers go through an intensive training program where they learn about the animals as well as how to handle and care for them.

Cattell works with nearly every animal while spreading knowledge about plant life and the history of Placerita Canyon. Cattell said she tells children how important it is to protect the earth and to work together to keep the planet a safe environment for nature to thrive.

“We’re all in this together,” Cattell said of the advice she gives young people. “They are the future stewards to ensure that all animals have a place to live and that we can all thrive together. We must protect the earth. The earth is the home of so many people.

A red-tailed hawk named Aiyana is one of the birds on display during live animal displays at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Chris Torres/The Signal

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