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Artisans team up to create ‘rescue nests’ for injured wildlife


Armed with hooks, skeins of yarn, and a little patience, skilled crocheters can produce a wide variety of useful things. But at least one afternoon of crocheting at Plum Creek Nature Center was for the birds, opossums, raccoons and other wildlife that needed a little help.

The Crochet for Wildlife program at the center in Crete County brought together 24 people to sew more than 40 small nests; this number continued to grow as people finished their work at home. The nests are donated to Willowbrook Wildlife Center to assist in the rehabilitation of the animals.

“Animals eat a lot and they also create a lot of waste, so these nests are more reusable than the paper towels and things like that that they normally use,” said Brittany Schaller, an interpretive naturalist who works at Plum Creek Nature. Centre. “They wash as they get dirty.”

The nests come in different sizes and shapes to support the changing needs of the wildlife rescue centre, which can care for everything from baby birds to medium-sized mammals. Schaller said that the project also prevents scrap yarn from going to waste.

“There’s no shortage of random scrap yarn or ugly colored yarn that crocheters want to use,” Schaller said. “This is a great way to do it. Little critters don’t care if it’s an ugly color that you don’t want to make a blanket with. This yarn has so much use as a little rescue nest.”

That resourcefulness has also led to some unique creations, he said.

“One of the great things about using random yarn is that each one is very different depending on what size or color of yarn you use,” Schaller said. “Each one was a little work of art.”

Brittany Schaller, left, an interpretive naturalist with the Will County Forest Preserve District, and volunteer Dianna Skoczek create a crochet hook they created to be donated to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center after a recent craft session at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township. They keep their jobs. (Brittany Schaller/Will County Forest Preserve)

Schaller said someone pointed out a similar program years ago, and she volunteered to crochet and donate nests. He came to Will County’s Forest Preserve District about a year and a half ago and a light bulb went off.

“After many years, I now work in forest conservation and I thought I could do this program now,” Schaller said.

Schaller connected with Wildlife Rescue Nests, a nonprofit organization that enrolls both volunteers and nesting sites, to learn more about how to build nests for wildlife and teach others to do the same.

“For those familiar with the basic crochet stitches, the process is pretty simple,” Schaller said. “A small, specific adjustment to the patterns is required to ensure the safety of wildlife.”

To that end, Schaller said he’s happy to see some program participants continue to drop off completed nests, but the nature center only accepts them from people who have gone through the program to learn the necessary skills. But Schaller hopes to hold similar programs soon so more people can learn.

Crochet for Wildlife is paired with the “Birds in Art” exhibit, which will be on display through Feb. 25 at the nature center at 27064 S. Dutton Road in Crete Township near Beecher. The exhibition features 60 works of art from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum of Art that focus on bird themes and habitats.

The free exhibition is open to all ages and no registration is required. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday between 10.00-16.00 and on Sundays between 16.00-16.00.

Bill Jones is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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