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Pink flamingos find home in Truckee

ABHUTCHISON

Where do tacky pink flamingos and plastic ducks go in the winter?

For more than six years plastic creatures have been migrating in Truckee’s own Polaris Wildlife Sanctuary, located on Glenshire Drive exactly 2.5 miles from Donner Pass Road. The variety of hand-made and five-and-dime animals have provided a delightful diversion for Glenshire commuters, fisherfolk and the occasional naturalist. However, since their arrival, funny looking birds, butterflies, gorillas and even action figures have been hit with “poachers.”

And just when it seems the birds have replenished their population, they are “poached” once again.

Cathy Bixler, a Glenshire resident, put two plastic pink flamingos in the wetland area across the street from her house with a friend in the spring of 1993. Her daughter made a wooden sign that reads: “Polaris Wildlife Sanctuary, No Poaching.”

Soon afterwards, the two flamingos were stolen. Then another resident put out two more but they were stolen.

“I have decided that these people are illiterate. The sign clearly says, ‘no poaching,'” said Bixler.

The wildlife sanctuary had a dry spell for almost five years, said Bixler. The plastic birds were staying away. But Bixler put out two more birds and then it just caught on. Little did she know the Polaris Wildlife Sanctuary would become such a unique folk-art breeding ground.

People started bringing creatures of all shapes, sizes and tacky colors to the sanctuary. One person brought a plastic frog wearing a bikini. Another brought a duck made from scrap lumber. One women created some sort of burrowing creature with its own burrow. Bixler said some sort of real wetland creature kicked out the plastic creature and moved into the burrow. And last summer the Wildlife Sanctuary even welcomed an almost life-sized African elephant.

“In its heyday there were family outings out there all year round. The sanctuary was packed.”

Bixler said that she received donations from all over, even as far as southern California from friends who knew about the sanctuary. Most donations are anonymous, though, said Bixler.

In December 1998, however, the bird population suffered dramatically from increased “poaching.”

“First some bad people came in and smashed all of the creatures with a baseball bat or something. But people just came and added more animals,” said Bixler. Then all of the animals were stolen or badly vandalized.

“It’s too bad,” she said. “People should stop stealing and continue contributing.”

Six-year-old Rachel Bove passes the Wildlife Sanctuary every day on her way to school at Glenshire Elementary. She tries to sit on the right side of the bus so she can see the animals out of her window. She contributed a small plastic windmill to the sanctuary last year and was very upset when it was stolen.

“I used to see my windmill I put out there, but then somebody stole it. I really liked the windmill,” said Rachel, of the windmill she got for her birthday. Rachel’s mother Joyce said that Rachel was so upset when it was stolen and the sanctuary was vandalized, she wrote a letter to the newspaper.

“More animals have come back since they got stolen, but they’re not the same animals. Sometimes I miss my windmill,” she said.

It all sounds a bit crazy, but that’s part of the pleasure the sanctuary brings to the community.

“It was just fun. People laugh at it as they drive by. It just brought pleasure to so many people. Kids especially love it.”

But it’s also important for the animals. Bixler goes a bit further in her explanation: “Some animals that are really ugly and plastic need to be liberated and be with their own kind.”

Laurie Helm, also a Glenshire resident, agrees.

“It has taken on a life of its own. I like the whole idea that its something that people do because they want to, not because they have to. It’s one of those spontaneous type of things,” she said. “For someone to come along and take everything is just mean. People worked hard to make the (sanctuary) special for everyone.”

The Knights of Indulgence Theater United States, a Truckee theater group that is known for the unexpected, will put on a benefit in an effort to help “replenish the stock.” The five actors, musicians and artists will head out into the wild for a special one-time-only show, “The Polaris Wildlife Sanctuary Benefit.”

KITUS encourages animal lovers everywhere to “get wild” and construct or find an animal for the sanctuary. On Sunday, May 2, at 3 p.m. animals can be used as admission to KITUS’ special benefit performance at the Wildlife Sanctuary itself. The show will be another all-original variety extravaganza.

Those who don’t bring an animal will still be able to see the show for the price of $5.

There is limited parking along Glenshire Drive near the Wildlife Sanctuary, so carpooling is appreciated. KITUS also requests that everyone bring their own chair because it may be damp out there. In the event of bad weather, an alternate date for the show is set for Sunday, May 9, at 3 p.m.

For information, call 550-WISK.

Photo cutline: Knights of Indulgence Theatre United States member from left to right: Margaret Valdes, Beth Lorio, Andy Thornton, Stephen Patterson and Brent Lindsay. The group will perform the “Polaris Wildlife Sanctuary Benefit” on May 2.

(Photo by Skip Shuman and courtesy of KITUS)


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