This Sunday, James and I were on our way home from a wedding in Delaware (the state where strip malls go to die) and we decided to make a stop at the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. As a girl who grew up in North Jersey, I've made it a point to Avoid the South. When I hear the words "Pine Barrens" I always immediately hear that banjo song from "Deliverance" in my head and simultaneously think of the Jersey Devil....terrifying.
For those of you who are not up on your NJ folklore (I mean, isnt that a top priority for everyone?) the New Jersey Devil is a mythological creature that supposedly has been haunting the Pine barrens for over 275 years. the most popular version of the story is about Mrs. Shroud of Leed's point NJ who had 12 children and stated that if she had a 13th child, it would be the Devil. ( I mean, anyone who is having 13 children is just asking for it.... I'm talking to you Octo-Mom.) Well, one stormy night in 1735, she gave birth to her 13th child. They say the child was born normal but then changed into a creature with hooves, bat wings, a horse head, and forked tail. Then it apparently flew up the chimney and headed to the pines where it has been terrorizing the locals ever since.
On our way to Cedar Run Wildlife refuge we did not see the Jersey Devil, however we did drive through a pretty secluded pine forrest and James did express some concern that I was taking him into the woods to murder him.
I didn't know what to expect from the Refuge but was pleasantly surprised when we got there. Running entirely on donations, The Refuge cares for more than 4,000 injured, orphaned, or displaced wild animals a year. There is an animal hospital on site that rehabilitates injured animals and whenever possible, releases them back into the wild. There are some animals that cannot be set free because they may have a more permanent disability which would prevent them from taking care of themselves in the wild. As unfortunate as it was that these animals were hurt, it's amazing that they are now given a second chance at life when they would not have otherwise survived... and its also really cool that we get to see them up close.
In order to visit with the resident wildlife, we had to cross the beautiful Cedar Run Lake on a very unique bridge made completely of recycled plastic materials. (the picture above.) as we walked up to the first enclosure, I think both of our jaws dropped as we spotted Hallie one of the resident Bald Eagles. She came to the refuge in 2005 after being found at the base of a tree in Wyoming. She was attacked by Crows when she was just a nestling. She seemed to be pretty happy just chilling on her log next to her coi pond with a piece of fish stuck to her talon. Then again, she is being kept in a habitat that is right on the Jersey Devil's path of terror.
This male model is "Digger" he's a Red Fox and he's pretty bad ass. I had to "SnapChop" his photo because he was making such a funny face. Snap Chop is probably the most entertaining IPhone app. It takes your photos and adds random captions to them. I thought this one was very fitting. Even though Digger is disabled and has a problem with his leg, he needed double fencing and actually has five feet of chain link fence buried below his enclosure so that he doesn't dig his way out. I'm pretty sure he was Morgan Freeman's understudy in the "Shawshank Redemption"
This is Big Mamma the Red Tailed Hawk. She has been at the refuge since 1989 when a car accident left her with a disabled wing and leg. So she's been around since before Martin Lawrence decided to dress up as an old heavy set lady and make not one but 3 painfully mediocre movies about it. She's the original Big Mamma and from the look on her beak, she knows it.
This is my new best friend Squam, the Barred Owl. He's been at the refuge since 2002 because an impact injury left him blind in one eye. I'm pretty much in love with him and I think the feeling is mutual, I mean look at the way he is looking at me! Amazing.
After all our searching, we finally found the New Jersey Devil and as you can see from this photo, he's kind of a big deal. Actually this is "Little Girl" A woman in NJ found her as a small kit and raised her as a pet with a collar and a leash for 2 months before bringing her here. Now she is so used to humans that she cannot be released into the wild. I think in this photo, she is sleeping with her head hanging off a hammock. Either that, or she was seriously considering having me for breakfast.
The amazing thing about visiting the Refuge, was that after we crossed the bridge to the area where the animals were housed, we did not see any other human beings. we were in the woods next to a lake, connecting with these animals up close. Its wonderful to know there is a place like this that helps to protect our wildlife.
The Cedar Run wildlife refuge also helps to educate over 19,000 students each year through their on site and outreach programs. The also run an adoption program where you can support one of their animals for a year.