#HomeGrownStories – Becky Crow

Miami County native Becky Crow is the Curator of Wildlife at Brukner Nature Center. Brukner is a nature center and an authority on native Ohio wildlife rehabilitation. Becky has worked at Brukner since 2005. She cares for the wildlife ambassadors and the around 1,000 rehab animals that come to Brukner each year. Brukner releases most of these animals back to the wild. We interviewed Becky for our #HomeGrownStories while she fed baby Grey Squirrels and a Red Fox kit.

On living in Miami County:
I was born and raised in Miami County. I went Milton-Union School from kindergarten through high school. I moved away for a short period of time to attend the University of Toledo. Now I live in Laura and my children go to Newton at this point. My husband is from Laura and also went to Milton-Union School. My parents moved here and established our family in Miami County when they got married. So, I’m homegrown [laughs].

I think every kid goes through a period in their life where they think that once they grow up they’ll leave and never come back. When you’re in school and you have hardships: things don’t go your way, or you feel like you don’t have any friends you think that life would be better if you went somewhere else. I guess I was one of those kids at some point. I thought I would leave here but the main reason I didn’t is that I met my husband right before I went to college. We dated all through college and he was already established back here in the area. So… I essentially came back for a man [laughs]. It was well worth it and I’ve been very very fortunate because of all the little-hidden gems we have in Miami County. My first job was working for the Miami County Park District and then I landed a job here at Brukner Nature Center.

About Brukner Nature Center:
We are unique. We offer people an area where they can hike, visit our animal ambassadors and make a connection with wildlife. Our mission here is to promote an appreciation and understanding of wildlife conservation. We do it three ways: through preservation, education, and rehabilitation. Hopefully, when people come out here they see that and they understand that. Our focus on wildlife at Brukner makes us stand out in Miami County and the regional area. Our educational programming comes from a different perspective than most nature centers. During a wildflower walk, for example, our focus is on the pollinator, not because we don’t appreciate wildflowers but because our focus is on wildlife. Instead of coming to a tree identification program here, you might come to a program where we talk about the levels of the forest and what animals live in the canopy versus the understory. It’s a better way for us to engage with the public, our focus on wildlife means knowing a lot about one thing instead of a little about a lot of things. We are the regional authority when it comes to wildlife. People know to contact or will hear about Brukner Nature Center or be referred to us. We can talk to people about different wildlife issues and concerns. If they have a raccoon living in their attic, we can talk to them about humane solutions for getting the animal out. If someone finds a nest of baby bunnies in their yard they can call us and we can give them advice. That’s what makes Brukner Nature Center unique to Miami County and the entire region.

Finding her path to wildlife rehab at Brukner Nature Center:
I went to school at the University of Toledo. I started out as a biology major but switched to environmental science. That’s where I found my niche. I enjoyed my classes and when you enjoy something you put forth 110% effort. That is what sparked my interest, but when I graduated I left still feeling like I didn’t know what I wanted to do. As an environmental science major, I learned a little bit about a lot of different areas. I could’ve worked for the EPA, or with the state at the Division of Wildlife. What guided me was the fact that we had volunteer and internship requirements to graduate. I completed both of those requirements at Brukner Nature Center. At the time I was looking to fulfill those requirements, I didn’t realize that I was working on my resume at that point. When I finished school I started working at the Miami County Park District. I was there for about six months when a position for the rehab supervisor position opened up at Brukner. I applied for the job, which is how I ended up here.

As the curator of wildlife, my role is overseeing the wildlife program here at the nature center. One of my responsibilities is our wildlife ambassadors. I work to establish volunteers and work with our other staff in caring for the animals. Most people who visit Brukner Nature Center are familiar with our wildlife ambassadors. When people come out they definitely want to stop and see all the animals — they are the stars of all our programs! I spend the majority of my time in the wildlife rehab facility. Our peak season is from April to September. Last year we took in 1,400 native Ohio wildlife. They are either injured, sick or orphaned. Our goal is to release those that can be successful out in the wild. It’s pretty intense, especially during the busy season — lots of long hours! A lot of our success comes down to management — we rely heavily on our volunteers. We typically have two or three staff in our rehab unit so it’s definitely a balancing act.

What she loves about Miami County:
I love the small communities in Miami County. People watch out for each other and you have the sense that people want to help their neighbors. That’s what’s unique about Miami County. It’s very easy to connect with somebody from a different town in Miami County. There are also a lot of great little gems: Brukner Nature Center, our Miami County Park District parks, and our historical downtowns. We have great shops and a lot of family-owned small businesses. That’s a great thing about Miami County when you buy locally you’re supporting your neighbors.

Her Miami County recommendations for out of town visitors:
There are a lot of really great things to do in Miami County, so it depends on what their interests are. That’s another unique thing about Miami County, there’s a lot of variety in what people can do here. If they’re interested in the arts they can go to the Mayflower Arts Center or the Troy Civic Theater. You can visit Johnston Farm & Indian Agency and learn a little history. You can go hiking at Brukner Nature Center or a great park like Charleston Falls Preserve. The greatest thing about Miami County is the variety. You don’t come to Miami County only for nature, only for good food or good shopping. We have all those things and more.

Brukner Nature Center’s most popular programs:
Brukner’s most popular programs are our preschool program and our outreach senior program. Our Preschool Environmental Education Program, called PEEP, has about six classes now. Our outreach program is Senior Scientist which we take to assisted-living facilities. Every month is a new topic, this month seniors are learning about wildlife rehab. They are being introduced to a Big Brown Bat and talking about bats and winter hibernation. They’re also meeting an Eastern Box Turtle that actually has a patch to repair his shell after being hit by a car. He came into our facility a long, long time ago. In April we will talk about signs of spring with the gray rat snake as our animal ambassador. We go to about 20 different assisted living facilities each month, it’s very popular!

Brukner Nature Center
5995 Horseshoe Bend Rd Troy, OH 45373
Facebook: @BruknerNatureCenter

Follow our storyteller and interviewer, Courtney Denning, at ThisOhioLife.com.