Friday, June 16, 2006

Red Wolf Sanctuary seeks final OK for Ohio Co. (Indiana) site

By Chandra L. Mattingly , Staff Reporter

Work at the Red Wolf Sanctuary’s future site along Arnold’s Creek in Ohio County is on hold as Paul Strasser seeks final approval for a special exception for the 452-acre property, he said. Strasser, who operates and manages the non-profit sanctuary with his wife Dr. Jane Strasser, was granted a preliminary approval for a special exception to use the site as a wildlife sanctuary by the Ohio County Board of Zoning Appeals in October 2004.

His request for final approval will come before the BZA during its 7:30 p.m. meeting Thursday, June 22, in the conference room at the Ohio County Courthouse. The request was discussed by BZA members at a recent meeting as well, said Ohio County Building and Zoning Inspector Alonzo Bowling.

“They asked for a set of plans. ... They want to see the whole layout,” said Bowling.

Plans for the site, located off Ind. 262 by Arnold’s Creek, include large enclosures for the sanctuary’s animals, currently housed at its original site near Dillsboro. The sanctuary’s move is needed because it has outgrown the 22 acres there, said Strasser.

The resident wildlife include black bears, wolves, foxes, bobcats, owls, hawks, buzzards, and other species native to this area. Many of the animals were relinquished by former owners who attempted to keep them as pets in inadequate facilities, and would have been killed had he not accepted them, said Strasser.

Enclosures at the new site will have settings as natural as possible and be surrounded by two sets of fencing, one of which will be electrical. A third, 10-foot high perimeter fence will border the entire 100-acre area used for animals, he said. The remaining 352 acres will be enhanced to encourage its use by resident and migratory wildlife, allowing visitors optimum wildlife viewing opportunities, said Strasser. That includes restoring prairies and improving wetlands and woodlands.
Both walking and horseback-riding trails also are planned, he said.

In December 2005, the sanctuary received a $1 million donation toward the $3.5 million proposal for the site’s development, noted Strasser. Plans include an educational center, a drive-thru commissary with walk-in refrigerator and freezer for depositing roadkill and other dead animals the sanctuary accepts to use as food for its animal residents, and a raptor center with indoor and outdoor enclosures for owls, hawks and other birds of prey. Strasser has rehabilitated a number of raptors over the 29 years the sanctuary has existed, including bald eagles, but several injured birds which cannot be released remain residents at the sanctuary.

He hopes to provide viewing and sketching opportunities for artists and photographers, as well as for tourists and local visitors, he said. “When you have actually live animals, people will come to see them,” he said. Tourists drawn by the wildlife sanctuary to Rising Sun and Ohio County are likely to shop and dine in the area as well, said Strasser.

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