LIVERMORE -- A library volunteer counted 590 people at an "It's a Wild World" presentation held Aug. 13 outside the city's Civic Center branch.

"That's about twice as many people as we normally get at these kind of events," said library assistant John Weaver, who emceed the show for kids ages 4 and older.

The event was presented by Wildlife Associates in Half Moon Bay. The organization cares for animals that can't be assimilated back into the wild.

Trainers Shannon Forbes and Alison Rouhas began their "Predator and Prey" presentation by explaining how animals' senses -- hearing, smell, taste and sight -- help them to find food and avoid predators.

"A barn owl's hearing is so incredible that if it was sitting in a tree, it could hear my heart beating in my chest if I walked by," said Shannon. "A fox or a coyote can smell something you touched 14 days ago."

However, it wasn't until Rouhas brought out the first "predator" -- a North American kestrel -- that the audience's collective heart beat ticked up a few notches. Forbes introduced the kestrel as Wiyaca, which is Sioux for "white feather," and explained that kestrels like to eat small birds and animals.

"Kestrels can see a small mouse on the ground from a mile up in the air," said Shannon. "They can also dive down at 75 mph."


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She asked the children what a kestrel would use as a knife and fork. The answer: "Its feet and talons are its fork, and it uses its beak like a knife to rip and cut food into small pieces. They don't have teeth like us, so they have to cut their food up small, or they'd choke on it."

Also part of the show were a tamandua anteater and a serval cat, with detailed descriptions of how each goes about the business of finding other creatures to eat, and a crested porcupine with an explanation of how it avoids being eaten.

"A porcupine can splay out its quills like a turkey to scare off predators. Some of the quills are as sharp and strong as a knife -- you can't snap them in two," said Alison. "They can even scare off a lion. They just turn around and back into the lion with their sharp quills."

She said these porcupines also do a kind of "rain dance" that causes their quills to rattle, which scares off predators.

Wildlife Associates trainers are available for presentations throughout the year. For information, visit www.wildlifeassociates.org. For upcoming events at the library, visit www.cityoflivermore.net/citygov/lib/default.asp.