Kids eat a lot. Everyone knows that. But Tracy Bye's brood once polished off 2,000 mealworms and 2,000 goldfish in a week at a cost of $500.
What type of youngsters consume 2,000 goldfish in a week? The answer is four merganser ducklings.
Bye, a Soda Creek Elementary School teacher, is also the operator of the nonprofit Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center outside of Steamboat Springs. She has cared for an average of 100 animals, for each of the past three years.
Her foster family comprises an ever-changing menagerie of injured and orphaned wild animals.
Area residents who would like to "adopt" an animal without the responsibilities of feeding it can give Born Free a boost at a fund-raiser to be held Friday at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp. Along with goods and services from silent and live auctions, attendees will be able to go home with a wildlife print by local photographer Judy Jones.
Proceeds will go to Born Free.
Jones has been a photographer for 35 years including a period working as a newspaper photojournalist.
"I've only been concentrating on wildlife for four to five years," Jones said. "I spend hours on the golf course just looking for foxes."
For someone who has been pursuing wildlife for a relatively short time, Jones has put together an impressively varied portfolio, and her experience in photojournalism has translated effectively to her new subject matter.
Jones images reflect an ability to get close to animals.
While some of her best work is done in the wild, she also has visited wildlife sanctuaries and enclosures to make images of large cats, such as the lynx.
One of her most noteworthy images is a swimming porcupine. Easily the most haunting photograph is one of two wolves at a full run in a misty landscape.
Bye cares for injured and abandoned animals under the supervision of the Colorado Division of Wildlife but receives no funding from the state agency. She is state and federally licensed to rehabilitate wildlife, and depends upon donations to fund their care.
Bye said her animal rehab facility gets busier as the number of people living and driving vehicles in Northwest Colorado continues to grow. She estimates that 89 percent of her patients come to her as a result of a crash with a vehicle or a power line.
Among her most frequent boarders are owls and hawks. She used to raise mice to feed to the raptors but abandoned that project -- she found she grew attached to the mice she raised and it was difficult to feed them to the birds. Now, she orders 1,500 frozen mice at a time, at a cost of $1 apiece. Eagles require two rats a day, she said.
Spring is a time of baby animals, and Bye urged people who come upon fawns to leave them in place -- they aren't abandoned, their mother is watching from nearby.
People who find baby birds on the ground below their nests should simply place them back in the nest, if possible.
It is a fallacy that mother birds will reject baby birds that have been handled by humans, she emphasized.
Auction items at Friday's benefit will include a 20/10 value pass at the Steamboat Ski Area, condominium packages, sporting goods, pet accessories and many more.