Temple’s campus is one with more sidewalks than shrubs, more looming buildings than grassy patches or tall trees and so much foot traffic that squirrels and pigeons must hurry out of the way before being trampled. There are a few faculty members and students working hard to protect Temple’s wildlife population.
While they have other full-time jobs, these members of the Temple community are doing things that will hopefully save other little things – animals, that is – before it’s too late.
One animal advocate is Assistant Superintendent of Grounds Glenn Eck. Eck, who removes dead or wild animals found on campus, goes out of his way on a daily basis to help aid any animal that crosses his path.
“My most recent escapade involved capturing an opossum with an injured tail that was huddled up against the outside front wall of the [Student Center],” Eck said. “The animal led me on a wild goose chase back and forth across the front of the building. The tail looked quite infected, so I took the opossum to Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab near Roxborough.”
It’s not unusual for Eck to take care of those types of calls, nor is it strange for him to travel a distance to get the animals to safety.
Why would Eck transport these animals to rehabilitation facilities or even to a suburban forest if they aren’t injured?
“Simply because it’s the right thing to do, and I have the experience to do it,” he said.
Eck said he’s always had an appreciation for wildlife and nature.
“I grew up in the countryside of central Pennsylvania, and wildlife encounters were a part of everyday life,” he said. “Perhaps it’s city living or the effects of video games and the Internet, but I’m saddened and amazed by the general lack of knowledge of our native wildlife among the campus community.”
Eck, a supporter of animal awareness and outdoor experience, made it clear that he takes pride in his assignments and abilities to take care of animals when necessary and mentioned that students who encounter a wild animal should contact Eck or one of his colleagues. He said if they are unable to handle the problem, someone is contacted from the Pennsylvania Game Commission or Western Pest Control.
Nonetheless, in the 11 years that Eck has been working at Temple, he has never seen any sickly or rabies-infected animals. Wildlife accustomed to Main Campus includes birds, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, red-tailed hawks and various species of insects.
Eck has also been called to remove dead birds that often fall to the ground after crashing into one of the many windows of the campus’s tall buildings. This, however, will soon be one job he doesn’t have to do.
Last spring, professor Sanford Sorkin, along with graduate student Shawn Towey, President Ann Weaver Hart and Sandra Mcdade, director of the Office of Sustainability, managed to get the National Audubon Society involved in monitoring birds on Main Campus.
Sorkin, faculty chair of the Computer Information Science Advisory Board, said efforts to involve the society began when he spotted an Ovenbird.
He contacted the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but officials didn’t believe him.
“They said, ‘take a picture.’ So, I did,” said Sorkin, who has been a bird watcher for about 15 years.
He sent in the picture, and his suspicions were confirmed.
“Temple is a migratory trap,” Sorkin said. “There are places along Liacouras Walk, as well as Sullivan Hall, where extensive amounts of ivy attract birds at alarming rates.”
Towey, a second-year geography and urban studies graduate student, spoke to a friend who worked for NAS. Temple was eventually contacted by the Audubon Society, of which Hart is a member.
“[Hart] was very enthused about the project,” Sorkin said. “It’s not something that involves a great deal of money but rather the premise of not doing things to kill the birds, since they migrate over here.”
“When we create buildings in an urban environment, we may need to rethink the way we do windows,” said McDade, who is also the director of the environmental studies department. “I think this whole thing is going to be an educational process.”
“The Audubon asked if they could come take a look at our campus,” Sorkin said.
After determining the locations where birds crash into windows, university officials initiated a bird collision study this spring. Student volunteers track the paths of birds that die from crashing into buildings.
“We hope to see why they ended up here and why they died and save them with the hopes that research techniques will be better 25 years from now,” Sorkin said.
While there aren’t many who help wildlife on Temple’s campus, the Promoters of Animal Welfare does exist.
PAW’s purpose is to bring students together with common goals of improving the lives of animals, encouraging compassion toward all living beings and enlightening others through advocacy and education.
“We represent a new generation of knowledgeable, reasonable, non-violent and open-minded individuals striving for the respect of all life on Earth,” said Laura Kielbasa, president of the organization and a sophomore biology major.
PAW has been active on campus. The group once caught a stray cat that it had spayed and then released in 2006. Kielbasa said the cat, named Calico, still lives behind Anderson Hall.
“While wildlife problems on campus are rare,” Eck said, “we welcome all allies in our efforts to keep members of the campus community living in harmony, whether two-legged or four.”
Keisha Frazier and Gabriel Katz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.