Local organic farmer and beekeeper Amy West talked about bees, rehabilitating animals and other animal-related things during a recent visit to Bains Elementary School in St. Francisville.
“Did you know cats sweat through their paws?” West asked students.
West rehabilitates animals from area shelters and the wild, and some find their way to her back porch.
“I don’t seek them out necessarily, but they manage to find me,” said West, whose 5-acre property in Wakefield, north of St. Francisville, includes a geodesic dome home, large garden and 80-foot greenhouse.
The retired East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany Parish teacher says she’s nursed chicks, kittens, squirrels, turtles, a possum and some puppies back to health. Locals have dropped off a guinea pig, snakes and kittens, and a peacock and pot-bellied pig have turned up on her property.
“My neighbor calls me the animal whisperer,” West said. “My mom always had plenty of animals around and was involved with them in some way, so I became involved with animals, raising my kids around them. We can all learn a lot from animals.”
According to Bains Gifted Enrichment Teams teacher Marjorie Dubea, West provides a wealth of information in the community.
West has visited the St. Francisville school several times over the past three months, allowing students to hold and pet the animals while they learn scientific facts about each species.
“Animals are like people in some ways but different from us in many other ways,” West told the students in November, when several species of birds were introduced, such as a ring-necked dove and two species of chickens.
“We learned birds have different types of feathers and each type serves a different purpose,” Dubea said.
In September, West brought kittens from an animal shelter that she was bottle feeding because they lost their mother too soon.
Two corn snakes and an injured box turtle visited in October, teaching the students what cold-blooded and exothermic mean, Dubea said.
According to Dubea, her students look forward to meeting the animals up close and learning about them.
West said she intends to return to Bains in January with some wild bats that live on her farm.
“I had to tell the students, No, they’re not fruit bats because that species doesn’t live here, and no, they’re not vampire bats. They’re just tiny little creatures that like to eat mosquitoes,” West said.