Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Conservationists Working to Preserve Urban Wildlife in Oklahoma City

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Conservationists Working to Preserve Urban Wildlife in Oklahoma City

Article excerpt

At a plant surrounded by development and heavy traffic, where clay is mined and baked to build more houses and businesses, Acme Brick truck drivers are fostering a small bit of nature in their own backyard.

"They baby those deer," office manager Tonya Pope said. "They don't even wait for it to be too hot or too cold before they leave some feed or carrots or bales of hay or something. ... They love to take care of their deer."

A few years ago the drivers who deliver Acme Brick noticed three or four whitetail deer had somehow gotten through the fence onto company property. The plant on Memorial Road sits on about 80 acres, which includes massive pits supplying the red clay that makes Oklahoma brick so valuable. Much of the land around the pit is undeveloped, providing plenty of tall grass and trees to protect the wildlife.

The drivers started bringing food for the deer, which proved to be enough incentive for the animals to stay on the grounds from season to season. No one knows whether they're the same deer or relatives who come and go, Pope said, "But every year we've got a new crop of babies."

The deer are just another reminder that for all the buildings and fences that define the metro area now, nature was here first, said Casey Wieczorek, assistant naturalist at Martin Park Nature Center. The 140-acre city park is in much the same situation as the Acme Brick plant, surrounded by housing and businesses right off of Lake Hefner Parkway.

Oklahoma City parks spokeswoman Jennifer McClintock said the city has received offers to buy the parcels for development, but those deals have been declined.

"We work hard to keep this a sanctuary for wildlife. ... A city needs areas that are kept pristine," McClintock said. "And once we educate them as to what happens in the park, they kind of see the point."

Wieczorek said people often ask her about snakes they kill on their properties, fearing the worst. But the victims are usually brown snakes and rat snakes, she said, helpful in keeping vermin under control. Other people with good intentions try to rescue found baby animals only to learn that the parent likely would have come back to the nest in time, Wieczorek said. …

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