A resident squirrel posing for his close-up at UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators, located at 18300 E. County Rd. 200 N. in Hope, Ind.
A resident squirrel posing for his close-up at UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators, located at 18300 E. County Rd. 200 N. in Hope, Ind.
UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators is hosting its monthly First Saturdays program this weekend beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at the UTOPIA facility located at 18300 E. County Rd. 200 N.

The monthly program, which runs now through October, offers visitors an intimate glimpse into what it takes to care for, rehabilitate and learn from wildlife, says UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators co-founder Kathy Hershey.

“We talk about what animals you are likely to encounter in your backyard and just general information about them and handling them and living alongside them,” she says.

Programs such as this help to discount misconceptions about wildlife, its role in nature and how that aligns with humans and society.

Hershey says the one thing most humans do is the one thing they shouldn’t when encountering wildlife.

“They aren’t pets,” Hershey says. “They have a function and they are doing their best to adapt to living among people. We are trying to teach people the animals don’t need your help most of the time. The best thing you can do for wildlife is to leave it alone. People who are absolutely terrified of animals – we can keep the animals safer when people understand why they are there and what is going on.”

UTOPIA has hosted educational programs such as First Saturdays for several years, Hershey says.

“One day I just decided it would be nice to have a regular program on site,” Hershey says. “We have plans for the future and it involves doing a lot of educational things here for all ages about all kinds of environmental subjects.”

Saturday’s event will feature some current and long-time residents of UTOPIA, including eagles, fox, coyote and groundhogs, Hershey says.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair, Hershey says. Seating at the amphitheater can be uncomfortable and flippy, she adds.

Free-will donations of either monetary value or items from the facility’s wish list are always welcome and very much appreciated.

** UTOPIA programming is weather-dependent, in the event of inclement weather or excessive heat, please check in with UTOPIA on Facebook for updates.

** For more information about UTOPIA, its programs and visitor information, visit https://www.utopiawildlife.org.