Photo by Kelly White
John Bastile, founder of Big Run Wolf Ranch in Lockport, talks to students, parents and faculty at Southwest Chicago Christian School in Oak Lawn about animals such as this coyote at left. The discussion and chance for kids and parents to observe animals took place on Friday during Family Fun Night.
One local school tied family fun with wild animals, including the feared coyote.
The staff at Southwest Chicago Christian School, 10110 S. Central Ave. in Oak Lawn, hosted a Family Fun Night on Friday night at the school.
The event was open to the public and was free except a minor charge for a bounce house, hot dogs and chips.
The night highlighted with an educational animal program presented by Big Run Wolf Ranch. Big Run Wolf Ranch, based out of Lockport, is a non-profit, federally licensed, educational facility that specializes in the education and conservation of North American wildlife. The facility has been running since July 1986 by John Basile, president and founder.
Basile led Friday’s presentation, introducing animals with not the best reputations to children and their families. Basile wanted to show the public that wild animals do not have to be feared.
“I love animals and I’m hoping there is a giraffe with (them) tonight,” said Timothy Steward, 4, of Oak Lawn.
No giraffes made an appearance. However, several other animals did, including: an 11-week-old black British Columbia Timer Wolf, a skunk, a groundhog, a porcupine and a 5-year-old coyote.
“All of the animals that travel with me are very tame and safe,” Basile said. “They have been appearing before the public since they were only a couple weeks old. These animals I have with me today are my regular crew of animals that always travel for live shows with me.”
During his presentation, Basile let children meet and mingle with the skunk, groundhog and chipmunk as they walked around on stage. The skunk has been de-scented and both animals are extremely social, according to Basile.
“The skunk was really cool,” said Brooke Lowczyk, 8, of Oak Lawn. “I’m happy it was de-scented and it did not spray us.”
Lowczyk attended the event with her mother, Nicole, her 11-year-old sister, Alexandra, and her grandmother, Andrea Mariotti, of Schaumburg.
“Brooke will be attending school here this year and we wanted to start joining in on some of the activities the school has to offer,” her mother, Nicole, said. “This was a great family-friendly event and Brooke absolutely loves animals.”
Another one of Brooke’s favorites was the wolf puppy. Basile allowed the puppy to come out on a leash as she rolled and interacted with the public no different than an everyday puppy would.
“She (the wolf) is great and so loveable,” Basile said. “Kids have so much fun with the animals when they are still puppies.”
The highlight of the evening was Basile walking an adult coyote on a leash in front of the crowd. The coyote was found as an orphaned puppy in Chicago Ridge after its mother was hit by a vehicle and left on the road.
“We took the coyote in, raised her and cared for her,” Basile said. “Coyotes have such a bad reputation among people, but they are only doing their best to survive. The world would be overrun by rodents if it weren’t for coyotes, who feed rodents to their young. Rodents attack the agricultural industry and create a deflation in food and produce supply, resulting in higher prices at the grocery store. Coyotes help to maintain this sense of balance in the food chain.”
Basile discussed safety issues for parents as well during his presentation, including how to safe guard children and pets against coyotes.
“These issues need to be discussed because not everyone understands that as we build new subdivisions and neighborhoods and highways, the coyotes have nowhere to go and their food supply is depleted,” Basile said.
Information was not just meant for the parents, but for the children as well, according to Basile.
During his presentation, spending 15-20 minutes with each animal, Basile quizzed the kids on what the animals were and answered any questions about them that were presented. He also covered any animal myths.
“There is so much information out there that can easily be tied into the classroom,” Basile said. “I have received nothing but positive feedback from children from any presentation.”