Humane Heroes February 2021

March 9, 2021

Associated Humane Societies thanks our Humane Heroes for the month of February!

Nut Swamp Elementary & Friends help Tinton Falls pets!

All of us at Associated Humane Societies want to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to Nut Swamp Elementary School in Middletown, NJ, along with Girl Scout Troop #327 and Boy Scout Troop #205, for holding a donation drive for the animals cared for by AHS!  Our Tinton Falls facility was presented with a $200 check, along with a whole lobby full of donations of pet food and supplies collected by these Junior Humane Heroes!  Thank you all so much, and keep up the good work!  Our animals greatly appreciate it!

Emma from Oakhurst and classmates at Ocean Twp. Intermediate School give back to animals in need…

Thank you so much, from all of us at Associated Humane Societies, to Emma Fitterer of Oakhurst, NJ, and the 6th grade class at Ocean Township Intermediate School.  Look at all of the donations collected for their HERO project for the animals at our Tinton Falls facility!  Our resident mushy-man, Biggie, was so excited to help bring in all the donations and after a quick inspection of all of the goods collected for him and his friends, he gave Emma a big, sloppy kiss in thanks!  So great to see these Junior Humane Heroes being taught at a young age to give back and help animals in need.  Thanks so much!

Father/Daughter duo brings in blankets for Newark pets!

All of us at Associated Humane Societies want to send out a giant THANK YOU to the father/daughter duo, The Goldbergs, for bringing in tons of beautiful, brand new blankets for the animals cared for at our Newark facility!  Your donation will bring so much warmth and comfort to the many animals that are awaiting their forever homes.  Thanks so much!

Junior Humane Hero asks for donations instead of birthday gifts!

We would like to send out a very Happy 10th Birthday and a huge THANK YOU to Tea Gallucci!  This Junior Humane Hero had an idea several years ago to collect donations for our AHS/Popcorn Park animals for her birthday in lieu of gifts.  What a generous, selfless person she is growing up to be!  This is the 4th year of her birthday tradition, and Tea recently brought in tons of pet food and supplies collected for her 10th birthday.  Thank you so much, and our animals wish you a very Happy Birthday!

Lacey Brownie Troop collects donations for animals in need!

All of us at AHS/Popcorn Park want to express our thanks and gratitude to Lacey Brownie Troop #50031 for all of the pet food and supplies that they gathered for our animals!  The girls held the donation drive to work towards the Animal Care patch and this is the second time they’ve brought us a ton of supplies!  Great job by these Junior Humane Heroes and keep up the good work! 

Pictured at left are:  Danica, Rosie, Mary and Addison.  Not pictured is Lilly, who helped too!

LACEY – Dogs are barking. Kids are chatting. Up in the trees, birds are chirping.

None of it fazes the newest star at Popcorn Park Animal Refuge — Artemis the falcon. At least, not while a custom-made hood sits over her eyes. This is a retirement community for Artemis, age 9, after years of working at Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, Bergen County. There, she performed for thousands of revelers at the renowned dinner theater, demonstrating the ancient art of falconry on command.

But the pandemic hit her hard. Medieval Times closed for well over a year. When it reopened, well, things were different.

“When it came time to resume putting on the show, she had put on some weight, just like the rest of us during COVID, and she became a little less athletic,” explained Danny Mendez, Popcorn Park Animal Refuge’s assistant director. “In the show falcons circle an indoor arena and come back when they’re called. Artemis decided she didn’t want to come back anymore. She would land on some people’s tables, eat their food and she even took somebody’s scarf.”

Animals do have a way of expressing their feelings.

“They thought it was time for her to retire,” Mendez said.

So Artemis retired to Ocean County in early March. But she didn’t get condo and play pickleball. She moved into Mendez’s home in the Bayville section of Berkeley, so they could bond.

And bond they have. Despite all the hubbub around her Tuesday afternoon, Artemis perched on Mendez’s bent arm — an extended arm signals that it’s time to fly, while a bent one puts her at ease — and chilled.

“This is the ideal retirement for a falcon like her,” Mendez said. “She will maintain her diva status, but she doesn’t have to work for it. All she has to do is sit here and look pretty while I dazzle people with facts about her. As long as she doesn’t eat any children, it will be a successful day.”

Mendez has a good sense of humor. Artemis won’t attack children. When the hood comes off, however, it’s game on for this remarkable bird of prey.

‘An incredible force of nature’

Artemis — named after the Greek goddess of wild animals and hunting — is a hybrid falcon specially bred by Medieval Times. She’s two feet tall and majestically patterned. Her kind can fly as fast as 240 mph in a straight-line pursuit of prey.

“One of the world’s fastest animals,” Mendez said. “An incredible force of nature.”

A Hudson County-raised zoologist, Mendez has worked at the Bronx Zoo and Liberty Science Center. He arrived at Popcorn Park last year to assist longtime director John Bergmann and is focused on offering public education sessions with “ambassador animals” such as Artemis and Dizzy the Opossum, who survived being hit by a car and was nursed back to health by Mendez and fellow staff.

“It’s important that people have these interactions,” Mendez said. “With bears and monkeys (two of Popcorn Park’s most popular inhabitants), there is still physical separation. When you don’t have that, there’s a chance that interaction is going to lead to a lifetime of love and interest for somebody.”

Part of the educational session will be advice on what humans can do to help falcons, such as avoiding using poisons to kill mice and rats (which often winds up sickening falcons who eat them) and putting decals on large windows to prevent these majestic speed-flyers from crashing into them during pursuits.

In mid-April, during spring break, Mendez debuted Artemis on his wrist in a public “test run” for what will be a regular feature this summer. It was a huge success — for Artemis and enthralled kids.

“How often do you get to stand three feet from a falcon like this?” he said.

The hood comes off

Although Mendez praised Medieval Times’ staff for their treatment of animals, he had to start from scratch with Artemis when she moved into his duplex in March.

“For the first three or four days, she would fly away the second I walked into the room,” he said. “Then she was like, ‘You can feed me.’ Then when she saw me, she would associate me with positivity.”

Mendez became Artemis’ de facto dietician, helping her lose weight so she could be comfortable again (her dietary staple is frozen mice). She won’t, however, be flying for the public.

“We’re not going to free-fly her,” he said. “This is not the right environment. She’s used to an indoor arena. Here we have a ton of wild animals — too much stimulation. It would be a really short show if we introduced her and she attached herself to a peacock.”

To prove the point, Mendez removed Artemis’ hood. Her head immediately darted in five directions, as if on a swivel. Her feathers fanned out. The birds in the treetops were of particular interest. Lunch, perhaps? Twice, she tried to take off after them, but a tether kept her on Mendez’s glove (known as a gauntlet).

After a few minutes Mendez slipped the hood back on and all was calm. Time for some treats as a reward.

“The hood is great — I wish we had them for kids,” he joked. “We would sell them in the gift shop.”

Artemis could be a Popcorn Park resident for many years to come. Falcons can live into their 30s and respond well to people. It’s not a bad retirement gig, hanging on Mendez’s arm, impressing visitors and maybe even inspiring a few.

“She is a spectacular ambassador for us,” he said.

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