Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going to Wisconsin

Alice the Great Horned Owl is from Antigo, Wisconsin. But for her to go back to Wisconsin (even just to La Crosse) to do programs is quite a trick.

Each state has its own permitting procedures. I have a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Special Permit #1) to possess Alice for educational purposes. If I want to go to Iowa to present a program with Alice all I have to do is call the conservation officer for that region and let them know when I’m coming. Piece of cake. Wisconsin is a whole different ballgame.

When I first got Alice all that was required was a $10 permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and I had to let them know where I was going to be and when. Not a big deal. But one year when I sent in my $10 check for the annual permit it was mailed back to me with a copy of the new regulations.

Ever since then if I want to go to Wisconsin to do programs with Alice I now have to get a health certificate first ($40) then get a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ($50.) That wouldn’t be too bad if it was for the whole year, but it’s not. Both health certificate and permit are only good for 30 days. Ouch!

So since the Houston Nature Center is funded only by the City of Houston, I need to add these costs on to the fees I would normally charge for programs. This results in programs in Wisconsin costing nearly double what they cost in Minnesota. But I do still get a few groups that can handle the cost, and thankfully they often are grouped in spring so I can combine them onto one permit.

This year a couple of schools, a boy scout troop, and a retirement home in Wisconsin all wanted programs, so I e-mailed the Wisconsin DNR permit guy I normally deal with. He wanted me to talk to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture to make sure they didn’t want me to have an additional permit. They never had before, and when I left messages with the Department of Ag guy, they weren’t returned, so I figured that must mean I didn’t need a permit.

But the DNR guy sent an e-mail to the Dept. of Ag guy and copied it to his supervisor and several others, asking if I needed a permit from them. Well wouldn’t you know I got an answer pretty darned quick! Yes, in fact, I was also supposed to have a permit from the WI Department of Agriculture. Good grief! But at least there was no charge.

After all this discussion (and WI DNR office moving) my first program was rapidly approaching and I still didn’t have my permits yet. So Alice and I went to Appletree Pet Clinic in La Crescent so Dr. Laura Johnson could examine Alice and issue a health certificate, which she did. She wanted me to keep an eye on Alice’s lower mandible, though, since there was a slight crack in the left side, and the right side needed to lose a piece.

So I went back to the nature center, faxed copies of the health certificate to the WI DNR and WI Dept. of Ag, and by the end of the next day I had my DNR Non-Resident Temporary Wildlife Exhibitor Permit in hand as well as my Circus, Rodeo, and Menagerie Import Permit from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Dead serious…these are the permits I need for a single Great Horned Owl who was hatched in Wisconsin to bring her back to her home state just 20 miles away.

The program went great, a few weeks passed, and it was time to get health certificate #2 to go with my second Non-Resident Temporary Wildlife Exhibitor Permit from the DNR and to fax to the WI Dept. of Agriculture so they could issue another Circus, Rodeo, and Menagerie Import Permit.

Alice stood on my gloved fist in the vet’s office again for her exam like a trooper. She did some really loud annoyed chitters and nipped a couple of times, but overall did an excellent job of allowing herself to be poked and prodded during the exam. But she needed her bill trimmed, and that’s not something she’ll tolerate.

Dr. Johnson wrapped a towel around Alice’s back and wings, then firmly grabbed her off my fist. Her assistant held Alice’s feet as Alice lay bundled in the towel like a burrito with Dr. Johnson holding her head and filing her beak (they didn’t have the dremmel around that day, which is what they normally use.)

Alice screamed some at first, then resigned herself to being manhandled. It took a bit longer than usual using a file instead of a dremmel, but all went well and Alice was perched back on my fist panting in a matter of five minutes or so. A few minutes later she shook all of her feathers and really got settled again. What a trooper!

So I went back to the office, faxed off copies of the health certificate to the WI DNR and Dept. of Ag, got another Circus, Rodeo, and Menagerie Import Permit and we’re now cleared to do three programs in Wisconsin during Earth Week.

Does anyone have any friends in high places in Wisconsin who have the inclination to work to make it easier for a single owl to go back to her home state to educate people about her kind??? I’ve gotta ask…I never know who reads this…or who a reader might have connections to.

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