By JEAN HAVENS
With its mission to urge a generation of young people to reconnect with the wonders of the outdoors, Three Forks Nature Center at Sequoyah State Park keeps churning out fun and educational programs.
The center offers tours to the public that cover a variety of science and natural history topics native to Oklahoma.
According to Paula Hanafee, park naturalist, the center’s main goal is to get children to reconnect with nature in a fun and family-friendly way.
“There has been a decrease in parks like this throughout the nation,” Hanafee said. “The state and federal park systems are trying to generate new interests in nature.”
As an example, Hanafee pointed out that Oklahoma state parks are implementing their own GEO Cache trails to spark children’s interest in nature and hiking.
“The hiking is fun, free and great exercise,” said Hanafee. “The center is a nice place to take the family for something to do. We have kid activities, too.”
Three Forks brings weekly programs on many different topics, such as the aquatic system, native wildlife, conservation and geology. The center works with groups as well as with individuals.
“We have a lot of people who do their own self-guided tours, as well as those who like having a guide,” said Hanafee.
Three Forks also hosts a derby and workshops for anglers throughout the year. Native species are always a big draw, according to Hanafee.
“Especially for those who live in the cities. They never get to see these species,” she said. “We have a plethora of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. And most of the fish are native to Fort Gibson Lake. Most of the snakes we at the center we’ve caught in the park. There are a few who were brought in by citizens in the area.”
A spiny soft-shell turtle now lives at the center.
“The only time they [soft-shell turtles] come out of the water is to lay eggs,” said Hanafee.
Outside the center building are animals the park acquired through rehabilitation.
“We cannot release them because they have different injuries that will not permit us to release them,” said Hanafee.
These native animals are housed in large, caged areas with shelter similar to what they would find if they lived in the woods.
There’s Taurus, the 33-year-old bald eagle who has no left wing. According to Hanafee, eagles in captivity live for 30 to 40 years.
Taurus’ roommate is a barred owl named Pretty Girl. They share a large tree in their habitat.
Willie Coyote – pronounced like the cartoon character – is a 9-year-old coyote. Hanafee said that because of imprinting, which means he was raised by humans, Willie does not know how to hunt for food and could not take care of himself in the wild.
Gray fox brothers Mike and Ike, 7, were rescued from a wildfire when they were babies.
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