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Wildlife Images getting close-up on Animal Planet show

A June visit to Southern Oregon by the Irwin family of “Crocodile Hunter” fame will be featured on a Nov. 9 episode of Animal Planet’s “Crikey! It’s the Irwins!”

The crew visited Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center in Merlin to assist with checkups and some needed medical care for the facility’s two largest critters, a brown bear named Kodi and a cougar named Brady.

The Irwins are longtime friends with Wildlife Images Executive Director David A. Siddon, whose father, John David Siddon, founded the nonprofit facility in 1981 as a means to provide care and treatment for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

Siddon’s friendship with Terri Irwin dates back more than 30 years, more than a decade before Irwin would leave her native Oregon in 1997 to move to Australia and marry the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.

Before leaving the U.S., Irwin entrusted her beloved cougar, Malina, to the care of Wildlife Images, which the Irwins featured in their first episode of “Crocodile Hunter” that same year.

Erin Maxson, community and member relations director at Wildlife Images, said the visit was exciting for the facility for a long list of reasons — from old friends getting together to an educational and fun experience for staff.

During the Irwins’ visit, Kodi, a 27-year-old brown bear who had been showing signs of age, including arthritic pain and tooth decay, had two teeth removed and adjustments made to his arthritis medication. A 7-year-old cougar named Brady received X-rays and a basic health check.

Siddon said it was fun to visit with the Irwins, saying he hoped that exposure of the facility’s work with animals would bring some support.

“Terri grew up in Eugene, so she wasn’t far from us. We have a lot of common ground. When she was moving to Australia to marry Steve, she needed a place to put her cougar, so we gave it a good home for the rest of its life,” Siddon said, noting that the Irwins hosted him and his family in Australia two years ago.

“It was nice seeing an old friend and nice to have some national attention. We hope it’s very, very good for our bottom line and brings some donations and reaches people who are interested in learning more about us and what we’re doing.”

Wildlife Images Clinical Manager Jen Osburn Eliot said the visit by the Irwins would be a big deal for anyone in wildlife rehab, and that she was excited to see the upcoming episode, which features Terri Irwin and her son, Robert. Osburn Eliot called the work done by the Irwins “one of the main reasons I got into this field.”

“To be able to interact with them is a dream come true for me. When they were here for the procedures, it was very cool to see the inner workings of how a show is made, and both interesting and educational just to see them working,” she said.

“It was a very cool visit. Very busy. Everything was scheduled down to the minute. We had to be here early to prep with the film crew.”

She added, “It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m excited to see it. I have friends and former co-workers around the country, and everyone has reached out. We’re all very much looking forward to seeing the facility featured on the show.”

The episode is set to air at 8 p.m. Nov. 9.

To learn more, see https://wildlifeimages.org/crikey-animal-planet-features-wildlife-images

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

A bear named Kodi receives care during the filming of an episode of Animal Planet’s “Crikey! It’s the Irwins!” at Wildlife images.
Wildlife Images Director Dave Siddon, Terri Irwin, and Wildlife Images staff, visit with a wolf while filming an episode of episode of Animal Planet’s “Crikey! It’s the Irwins!”.