'Vermont raptors' visit children and families at Bennington Free Library

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BENNINGTON - Families sprawled out on blankets Wednesday afternoon in the courtyard of the Bennington Free Library to meet live hawks, falcons, and owls brought by the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.

During the event, Michael Clough, the assistant director of the museum, presented the four birds of prey to the attendees and shared facts about each.

"Now in the age of COVID, it's a little bit different than it was in the past. We are socially distancing while getting an up-close look at some live birds of prey," Clough said.

Ten families were in attendance and were required to register for the event before attending. During the event, the families were required to wear face masks, and to sit in hula-hoops that had been laid out to help them abide by social distancing guidelines.

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The first animal introduced was a red-tailed hawk named Homer. Homer suffered from injuries after being hit by a car. When rehabilitated, a pin fell out of his wing causing it to heal in the wrong position.

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Children in attendance were eager to meet their animal friends and asked plenty of questions regarding their habitats and diet.

"We try to keep everything interactive so there will be time for questions and answers. If people want to talk about something that I don't have with me that's great," Clough said.

A merlin falcon named Arwin was also introduced to the crowd. Arwin had suffered from similar injuries and is not able to fly after a part of his tail was damaged in a car accident. The last guests were a screech-owl named Sorren and a barred owl named Alistair.

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"For some of the animals their rehabber might name it and we keep it, other times we'll let the volunteers name them or we'll make a big deal and do a big Facebook naming [reveal]," said Clough.

This interactive event is one of many done as part of the museum's educational program which teaches kids and families about local animal species. Clough has been part of the museum's educational program for 12 years and has given presentations at schools and summer camps. The museum has also been doing online and remote programs for the public during COVID-19.

The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum is located in West Marlboro and is home to one of New England's largest collections of native species and live animal exhibits. Next to the museum are over 600 acres of protected hiking trails that can be accessed year-round.


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