“We made eight in total, but we made three or four large ones and then the rest were smaller ones,” said Julian Bueno standing in his parents’ Peoria garage.
The 17-year-old explained how a bit of spring cleaning last fall turned into an idea for his senior-year community service project. Julian is a student at Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center.
“We’ve been here since 2008 so we had a ton of stuff to take out,” said his mom Leslie with a laugh. “I knew he had to do a senior project in order to graduate and it had to be community service based so we were talking about it and we had cleaned out our garage and we had all these plastic moving tubs left over.”
Julian, a lifelong animal lover, and his mom came up with an idea to put them to use for wild cats in northern Arizona over the winter.
“It gets really cold especially up in places like Flagstaff, so we decided to make some winter homes for them,” said Julian showing how it works.
For the project, he worked in partnership with North County Humane and their Trap, Neuter, Release program (TNR).
Julian constructed the huts by cutting a hole in the side of the bin that would eventually become the outer shell. Then using Styrofoam coolers, straw, and carpeting, he’d insulate the interior, creating a makeshift animal den.
“Julian just helped us help them by creating nice, warm safe little houses where those cats can go and hide from predators and the snow, the wind, the weather,” said Kelsey Kieckbush with North County Humane.
She says their TNR program helps to humanely reduce the size of feral cat colonies in the area.
“Spaying just one, one female cat can prevent up to six thousand unwanted animals in the span of three years,” said Kieckbush.
Most of the cats trapped as part of the program are not adoptable and are released back into the community.
That’s where Julian’s soft heart and ingenuity make their mark by potentially saving the lives of many of these free-roaming felines.
“We’ve gotten a few words that they are being used, it did snow not last night but the night before and they snuggled up in there,” said Keickbush. “So, this is definitely saving these cats’ lives when it gets cold enough.”
It’s news leaving Julian eager to make more.
“It makes me feel fulfilled that our work paid off, that cats are able to use that to stay safe,” said Julian. “We’re going to try and make double the amount next year.”
High schooler builds winter dens for northern AZ wild cats – ABC15 Arizona in Phoenix