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November 3, 2006

Ohio woman earns Animal Planet’s first “Hero” award

CASTALIA, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman has been named Animal Planet’s first “Hero of the Year” for her work running a wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center.

Since 1990, Mona Rutger has been rehabilitating animals — from bald eagles to deer to foxes — at the nonprofit Back to the Wild center she founded in this community about 50 miles southeast of Toledo. The center also offers educational tours in which groups can learn about some of the animals that live permanently at the 30-acre complex.

Officials at the television station said Rutger stood out from the other 4,000 nominations because of her impressive success rate.

The reach of her program, and the fact that she is getting 60 percent of the 2,000 injured animals she gets each year returned to the wild, just blew us away,” said Victoria Lowell, senior vice president of marketing for the channel.

Ten finalists were selected from the nominations, and people were asked to decide the winner by voting on the channel’s Web site. The final announcement was broadcast Wednesday night.

This article is used with permission.