All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is Jewel of Orange County

Dear Marie,When I was in middle school, my science class took a field trip to some kind of bird refuge near Orange – at least that’s where I think it was.  I really liked it and now that I have kids myself, I’d like to take a daytrip there.  The problem is, I can’t remember exactly where it is or what it was called.  My old science teacher retired so I can’t ask him and no one at my old school seems to have any knowledge of this place.  In fact, I don’t even know if it still exists.  It’s not the Orange County Zoo.  I know where that is and I’ve been there with my family.  It was something else, something really rustic.  And it seemed to be way out in the middle of nowhere, even though we were definitely still in Orange County.  Does this ring any bells for you?
Santa Ana 

Dear Jasmine,I am pretty sure your class probably visited the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary which is located in the canyons just beyond the city of Orange.  Navigate over to Chapman Avenue and go east.  Chapman changes name to Santiago Canyon Road once you start heading into the canyons.  Turn left on Modjeska Canyon Road and take it as far as it will go.  At the end of the road, you will literally run into the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.  

The facility is a beautiful place to spend a day.  If you can, pick up a field guide to western bird species prior to your trip.  It’s lots of fun figuring out what all the different birds are as you are walking around and you can also bring along a check list to see how many you can mark off in a day.  You’ll be surprised!  I would recommend bringing a good pair of binoculars so that you can see the fine points in colors and patterns in feathers because some bird species differ from others by the smallest of details.   

The Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is open from 9AM to 4PM Tuesday through Sunday, but is closed on holidays and also during periods of rain.  Before you make the trip, be sure to call just in case the sanctuary is unexpectedly closed - being out in the canyons, anything can happen.  Their number is 714-649-2760.  You can also visit them online at

Believe it or not, admission is free.  However, donations are happily accepted.  Staff and volunteers are also engaged in site improvements and maintenance, and offer a wide range of educational activities so donations are very important.  In addition to cash donations, gift cards to home improvement stores are also encouraged.

Of course, there are not just birds and butterflies.  Tucker has a few resident animal guests who delight visitors year-round, and there are also local indigenous animals that are occasionally spotted.  But I won’t spoil any surprises.  So even if your children are not up for long hikes, there is plenty to see and do for little ones. 

Tucker is owned by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics of California State University, Fullerton.  It sits on twelve acres adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest.  In addition to a museum, there are also picnic areas, hiking trails, bird observation areas, a gift shop and restrooms.  And your kids will especially enjoy the Children’s Garden where there are native plants that they will be allowed to touch and smell.  During certain months, the Children’s Garden is filled with butterflies and it is quite an amazing site. 

The sanctuary is a special place with a marvelous history.  It was the dream-retirement home in 1926 to Ben and Dorothy May Tucker who loved the local wildlife and placed home-made, never-before-seen hummingbird feeders around their cabin.  Their feeder design became the standard for modern hummingbird stations.  The Tuckers willed their property to the California Audubon Society who took over the care of the sanctuary and opened it to the public in 1939.  During World War II, when sugar was rationed, the sanctuary had special permission to continue obtaining and using sugar in the Hummingbird feeders.   In 1968, the Society gave the property to California State University, Fullerton on the condition that it is maintained as a wildlife sanctuary for the benefit of the public and the animals – the arrangement has allowed many students from the department of natural sciences to have the opportunity to conduct field research and observe wildlife in a natural setting.  And just like you, students past and present from K-12 programs all over Southern California have taken or will take very memorable field trips to the sanctuary. 
I hope you and your children spend a wonderful day exploring and discovering nature.  Have fun. 

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