Thursday, March 22, 2012
MY FRIEND, BETSY KNIGHT, DIRECTOR OF BIG BEND WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, ALTHA, FL HAS PASSED AWAY...A GREAT LOSS TO WILDLIFE
I met Betsy shortly after I moved here. I visited her in Blountstown to meet her when I was actively volunteering for another wildlife rehabilitator, Julie Hart, who had a pet shop in Panama City. One of my projects was to take two tiny fawns (Wind and Sky) from the people who found them and teach them to nurse from a bottle. What a wonderful undertaking. I kept them on my porch and the cats decided to sleep with them. I had done this with goat kids many times. What a thrill. When I delivered them to her she was delighted, for in a little while they would join the current crop of young ones and ultimately be released. A few months later, I couldn't pick them out from the herd, but she could. She knew every one and their history, too.
She helped me when a young forked horn buck got his antlers caught in chain link nearby and the Bay County Humane Society delivered him, bloodied and still a bit stunned and shocky after all night with his head twisted up in the fence to me...with a broken arm! I got my neighbor's son to ease him into a wheelbarrow and into a kennel directly across from the kitchen window. It was too small, but that was good. He was bleeding a bit but it was a long way from his heart. Betsy told me to find smilax, a thorny vine and to feed him hay and grain so my neighbor and I picked him smilax. We were on the phone constantly. He wasn't eating! She told me he was eating at night, and he was, that rascal! Finally the biologist who manages the deer herd on Tyndall AF Base came with his dart and a helper. The drug worked fast and he went down, lifted into a trap which would secure his freedom and taken away.
Betsy was well known for her work with birds of prey, one of which appears on this entry. She also had in the past, two wolves. Her bald eagle, Olaha, was a well known education bird.
When I raised Mouse, the orphaned opossum, Betsy guided us into Big Bend National Forest to release him. Opossums are strange. They never really know you. They get used to you but there is no affection there. You bring food. They have been blessed with a keen nose and remarkable survival skills. Mouse weighed about 25 pounds. I wrote about him in my book, "Waltz on the Wild Side - An Animal Lover's Journal", and a watercolor of him by Maggie Guinn, graces the cover. We found a perfect spot in the quiet forest, with water and downed trees, plenty of shelter and food for a possum.
I spoke to her not long ago. She was excited with plans to go to Montana and study bears again.
She was so happy that I had cockatoos in my life again and lamented the passing of her Romeo, a Moluccan.
We've lost a great lady in the Florida, and Florida wildlife has lost a dear friend and benefactor.
I hope that her legacy lives on and that Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary will continue to be the haven she wished for and was given.
I will miss her terribly.