The Herald Bulletin

November 12, 2006

Critters coming to New Castle

For The Herald Bulletin

Hissing cockroaches, alligators, and flying squirrels were once just creatures that Steve Thompson watched on the Discovery Channel. Now they’re a part of his family.

Thompson is a wildlife educator who will share his knowledge and animals at a “Critter Junction” program at New Castle-Henry County Public Library on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s auditorium.

A self-described “city boy,” Thompson has always been interested in animals. The interest grew to a love when he became an elementary teacher, and his classroom was filled with interesting animals including ferrets, reptiles and hamsters.

“I even had a waterfall with a pond,” noted Thompson. “I tried to give students a unique experience.”

When he married his wife Angela, who grew up in the country, they settled in a rural area and slowly began taking in animals that needed homes. The Thompsons have created Critter Junction, something akin to a wildlife refuge in Markleville. Some of the animals came out of bad situations, while others just needed a place to live.

“We give animals another chance,” Thompson said.

After watching Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter,” and the adventurous Kratt brothers on television, Thompson considered sharing his knowledge of wildlife with others. Now Thompson uses the animals he cares for as a tool to educate the public about wildlife. As part of his presentation, he teaches children the importance of caring for their pets.

“It’s important for kids to take care of their pet, not just leave it to Mom and Dad,” he said.

The Thompsons’ four sons, ages 2 through 10, have lots of experience in taking care of pets. The family’s animals include a ferret, rabbits, flying squirrels, an African tortoise, an alligator, snakes, a giant bullfrog, tiger salamander. Oh, yes … and a few hissing cockroaches.

The animals have visited schools, libraries, and even birthday parties to spread the word about being responsible with wildlife.

Many of the animals will be at New Castle-Henry County Public Library on November 14. The program is approximately one hour long, with opportunities to ask questions and get up close to the animals.

“Expect to be entertained and to learn,” said Thompson.

There is no charge for the library program. For more information about Critter Junction, visit www.hrtc.net/~critterjunction.