When David Hoy meanders around the 19 acres at the Ohio Wildlife Center, he frequently pauses to say hello to familiar faces. Among them is Hope, a coyote rescued from a dog-fighting ring.

When David Hoy meanders around the 19 acres at the Ohio Wildlife Center, he frequently pauses to say hello to familiar faces. Among them is Hope, a coyote rescued from a dog-fighting ring.

"You can tell she's used to humans," said Hoy, director of operations and development of the OWC. "She is a real sweetheart. Around food though, you can see her instincts kick in."

Hope jumped and paced along the fence line last week as Hoy approached to feed her an egg and dog food, which she gobbled up in a matter of minutes.

Hope is one of more than 40 animal species at the OWC, a nonprofit organization that aims to share wildlife awareness and understanding with the public.

Open to the public since April, the center, 6131 Cook Road, is filled with wild animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated but are unable to return to their native habitats.

"We're keeping them as ambassadors of their species," Hoy said, "and we don't take wild animals just to have them here."

Naka-Hay, a red-tailed hawk, remains at the center because he is blind in one eye.

"I really enjoy animals on all levels," volunteer Carol Mock said while holding Naka-Hay. "It's the connection between people and animals. Where else could I do this?"

The Clintonville resident is one of many people who volunteer for the center, leading educational discussions and bringing out animals for visitors to see up close.

There is a gift shop in the main center of the OWC, along with several interactive exhibits. There also are areas where visitors are taught how to attract wildlife to their backyards.

"We want to give people a very intimate, natural experience with wildlife and nature," Hoy said.

For those interested in learning more, the OWC will host its third annual family fall festival, Wild Fest, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 4 to 12. The event includes wagon rides, nature trails, fishing, animal presentations, music, children's games, crafts and food.

In conjunction with Wild Fest, the OWC will host the Red Tail Run, a 5K to benefit wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education. The run will start at 9:30 a.m. at the center. To register or for more information, go to www.columbusrunning.com/redtailrun.

"I wish we had 200 acres," Hoy said. "but we've become a real destination point. People are slowly find out about us."

The center is open to the public on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. OWC members and children under 5 are free. Non-member adults are $5 and children 5 to 12 are $3. For more information, go to www.ohiowildlifecenter.org.

bdunlap@thisweeknews.com