Students contribute to national program to help small animals

A Forest Service employee installs one of the donated caps on the Superior National Forest; USDA Forest Service photo.

MICHIGAN—Bats, birds and other small animals who might otherwise suffer a gruesome end are being saved by a relatively small but important improvement to outdoor restroom facilities on the Superior National Forest.

Animals who typically use small natural cavities in trees, rocks and other dark, narrow spaces are attracted to the ventilation pipes on vault toilets, which are common at outdoor recreation sites. Each year, critters perish when they enter and climb down the ventilation pipes and become entrapped in the 'basement' of the toilets. Several years ago, the Teton Raptor Center in Wyoming initiated a program to address this problem by developing their own inexpensive and easy-to-install screened caps for the vents. Through their national Poo-Poo Project, they have distributed thousands of screens inside and outside of the United States.

A number of elementary school students in St. Paul, Minnesota, heard about the Poo-Poo Project and were inspired to get involved. They held fundraisers and collected $153, enough for about five vent caps. They choose to sponsor the Superior National Forest in their contribution to the Poo-Poo project. These vent caps, along with 66 vent caps installed across the forest since 2013, are protecting owls, bats and other animals from an unnecessary and cruel death. The result is more than 1,000 acres of habitat improved for cavity-nesting wildlife that live near these sites.