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In summer of 2017, I had the privilege to attend the Wildlife Leadership Academy. This academy focuses on leadership skills and prepares youth to become conservation ambassadors. This week-long field school specialized in white-tailed deer and how they interact with their environment. I worked together with four other students to compete against the other teams; and at the end of the week, my team had successfully won the competition.
Our team was rewarded throughout the past year. In September 2017, my team was given the opportunity to reunite in Robesonia, PA for a pheasant hunt at Pheasant Valley Farm. Our second reward came in May, when all the winning teams from the five different field schools—bass, brookies, bucktails, gobblers and drummer—gathered together at Mt. Gilead Camp in Stroudsburg, PA. The next day we piled into cars and traveled to Grey Towers in Milford, PA, home of Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot was a forester and a conservationist who worked to improve the environment after major destruction to the land had occurred.
While we were at Grey Towers, we suddenly got a call from Dr. Gary Alt. The Wildlife Game Wardens had tranquilized a bear. All of the students got to watch the game wardens process the bear. But this was no average bear; wardens estimated the bear to weigh 650 pounds, and at its maximum capacity, about 800 pounds. The students, myself included, really got to experience a once-in-a lifetime opportunity—it’s not every day you see a black bear of this size. Even the wardens got their picture with the black bear.
Dr. Alt had taken us through the normal routine for processing a bear; how to age it, how to track it, and how to see its current health conditions. After we finished with processing the tranquilized black bear; Dr. Alt gave us a tour of old bears’ dens he used to use for research. We got to see four different types of dens that bear use and how each one has its advantages and disadvantages. It was a weekend that can truly never be accurately described in words; you just had to be there to see it.
Wildlife Leadership Academy has given me countless opportunities, and has allowed me to meet many people, which will positively impact my future in being a conservationist. I also got a chance to return to the field school as an assistant team leader to help develop the next generation of conservation ambassadors.
If anyone is interested in attending one of these field schools, visit wildlifeleadershipacademy.org.
[Rachel Olver is a junior at Honesdale High School, Honesdale, PA.]