STAFF PHOTO / Nature Center

If you have nature and animal lovers at home, plan a trip to Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, an area in Medford catering to animal lovers of all ages who want to keep wildlife safe.

STAFF PHOTO

After you drive down a long dirt road you’ll come upon a small parking lot with a gazebo on the left and a building on the right – that’s the Nature Center, and it should be the first stop of the day. You’ll immediately see the gift shop area, but there’s also helpful information waiting for you, too. You’ll see Henry, an albino northern cardinal who has the human equivalent of brittle bone disease. Ask to see the reptile room, which has 55 New Jersey natives that are unable to be released into the wild. There’s a room with a rotating art exhibit where kids can craft and touch artifacts to learn in a tactile way. The Resource Room airs a livestream of a bird’s nest, and every Wednesday at 2 p.m. you can check the camera that streams from inside Cedar Run’s wildlife hospital.

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Moving out back you can stay for a bit in the family-friendly playroom that has a screened-in porch, or the outdoor nature playscape. Check out all the taxidermy around you: bears and turkeys and foxes seem to peek at you, in a safe way!

STAFF PHOTO / Cedar Run Lake

Once outside, it’s time to walk along the three miles of trails and take a hike. Or continue toward the bridge over Cedar Run Lake; peek over the edge and you’ll see lots of turtles swimming freely.

STAFF PHOTO / Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

Education, conservation and rehabilitation are the name of the game here. This is a great place for kids to learn about their natural surroundings and how to protect the wild animals they see in their backyard. There are 171 acres here on the edge of the Pine Barrens, and they’re filled with animals who may have been left by their mothers, hit by a car or fallen from a nest. Cedar Run takes in more than 150 New Jersey native species to help them survive.

Out on exhibit as you walk around are raptors, a Bald Eagle, turtles, geese, ravens and other injured animals that are enclosed in cages. One bird seemingly sang “Hi” as we passed by. The deer was hiding in her shelter. A spider, not an official resident of the property, was weaving an incredible web. These animals can’t be released back into the wild because they won’t survive, but it makes for a good learning experience for your family. And adults will learn what to do if they find an animal in need of help.

STAFF PHOTO / Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital

If your kid is a budding veterinarian, they’ll be fascinated by what goes on inside the rehabilitation hospital. The Wildlife Team is trained to assess the species, gender, age, injury and other factors to see if the animal is in danger. There are three licensed wildlife rehabilitators, part-time staff, about 200 volunteers and a team of interns who manage more than 6,000 animals per year.

Although you can’t go inside the rehab hospital, know there are hundreds of skunks, raccoons, songbirds, birds of prey, bunnies, etc., being looked after at one time. The week we visited, there were 274 animals being cared for on site. There was even a mama opossum that had been hit by a car but that had a pouch full of babies, and a family of mink found under a log.

WOODFORD CEDAR RUN WILDLIFE REFUGE

A super special part of our visit was the chance to see Ember, Cedar Run’s mascot, who is not on public display yet. The organization is about a third of the way to its fundraising goal of $70,000 to build the red fox a new enclosure. She had a broken leg but the pin was not set correctly, so she couldn’t be released into the wild.

You can also come to Cedar Run to simply enjoy nature. You can sit in the peaceful area, take a hike or explore the grounds. It’s open year-round, so you can bundle up your crew and go in the winter, too.

STAFF PHOTO / Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

Scout troops are welcome and can work on their Merit Badges or Eagle/Gold/Silver award projects. You can also host a birthday party on-site for the kids here. If you’re looking for something on a grander scale, Cedar Run even holds mitzvahs and weddings by its amphitheater–you’d just have to cater in your own food. You can also rent a raptor for your photography session.

WOODFORD CEDAR RUN WILDLIFE REFUGE

Cedar Run can also bring some of its animals to you through the Wildlife Ambassador program. They love to visit schools, special needs programs and senior centers so that people who can’t make it out to the property can still see and touch the animals. The fall schedule is out for homeschool courses.

If you can’t make the trip there but want to help the refuge, there are a number of ways to do that. You can adopt an animal symbolically by making a donation starting at $35. You can bring an item from Cedar Run’s Wish List to donate back to the center. And, Cedar Run’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Wine & Wildlife, takes place annually in July at the Community House of Moorestown. This adults-only event features wine samplings, auctions, raffles, and appearances by some of the Wildlife Ambassadors. Autumn With the Animals is a fall community event that includes a hike, animal tours and meet-and-greets. The 5K will be held at the end of September. At Halloween time kids can enter the costume contest and parade, or go on a haunted guided hike if they dare (will they see the Jersey Devil?).

STAFF PHOTO / Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

The property is accessible, with two ADA restrooms that include a baby changing table, and a boardwalk-style walkway. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital is reachable at extension 107. Spring and summer hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for phone calls, but there is a 24-hour dropoff on site for any animals that may need medical attention. Do not touch an animal before calling first, because interfering with an animal could actually put it at risk.

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is located at 4 Sawmill Rd. in Medford. The Nature Center is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day. Daily admission fee is $10 per adult, $5 for kids ages 4-12 and free for kids under 3; yearly memberships are available at different levels. For more information, call 856-983-3329 or visit cedarrun.org. Look out for sweet videos on Facebook and Instagram, too. For more information on Scout projects or birthday parties, call the main line or email education@cedarrun.org.

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