Most of the organizations I write about are places I have never visited. In December, I visited today’s organization along with my family. The Raptor Center was an interesting place to visit and an organization that has been ensuring the health of raptors since 1974.
In the early 1970s, Dr. Gary Duke, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, was conducting some research on grain-eating turkeys. Dr. Patrick Redig, a veterinary student was working with Duke when four baby great horned owls offered them an opportunity to expand their research to avian meat-eaters. Redig offered to care for the resident owls as well as other birds that they did not need for their research. He also began to repair their injuries and return them to the wild, pioneering avian orthopedic and anesthetic techniques that are still used by avian veterinarians today.
Some of the birds were unable to be released back to the wild, so he used these live birds to educate the general public about raptor behavior, habitat, and threats to their survival. Since their founding in 1974, The Raptor Center has become an internationally renowned education facility. The Raptor Center has also made a huge difference for raptors including the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project which helped remove the Peregrine Falcon from the endangered species list, a book named Medical Management of Birds of Prey that details medical and surgical techniques for birds of prey, a manual named Raptors in Captivity: A Guide to Care and Management that has been adopted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as their standard on captive raptor management, among many other accomplishments listed on their website.
In 2012, The Raptor Center received nearly 800 patients including eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons. These birds are all raptors because they have hooked beaks, sharp talons, and sharp talons. When we visited in December 2012, they had 52 bird patients. One long term winged ambassador resident is Leuc, a male bald eagle that has called The Raptor Center home since 1983. He arrived with a broken right wing. It healed but left him unable to fly. In 1999, Leuc was also treated for a cancerous tumor on his right leg. Luec has served as an education bird at the center since he was unable to be released back into the wild.
The Raptor Center reaches over 250,000 people annually though their unique public education programs and events. Anyone can visit the center’s facility for a tour and meet a variety of raptors. In addition, some of the raptors go on visits to local schools and other events.
How can you help?
The Raptor Center provided me with a many things we can all do to help birds and the environment.
- Get involved in local conservation organizations such as The Raptor Center or your local nature center. The Raptor Center has volunteer opportunities including transporting sick or injured birds and helping in the clinic. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities here.
- Learn about the various species of raptors here.
- Lead alternative ammunition will help reduce lead poisoning in bald eagles and other birds. Click here to learn more.
- Eliminate unnecessary pesticide use. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 50 pesticides currently used in the United States have caused bird die-offs. Even the small amounts used by individuals on their lawns have a cumulative affect.
- Modify your windows to help avoid collisions by adding screens, blinds, or bird feeders. For examples and more information on this topic, please visit the Audubon Society website.
- Properly dispose of toxic chemicals such as latex paint and items containing mercury. Mercury is a potent nerve toxin, which is increasingly found in our water, fish, and loons.
- Attend special events that The Raptor Center holds throughout the year, including its semi-annual Raptor Release, where rehabilitated raptors are released back into the wild. You can watch their online calendar or sign up for their e-communications.
- You can also make a monetary donation using a variety of options on their website or via their fundraising page on Razoo.com. In addition, there are opportunities to adopt a specific raptor. You can learn more about raptor adoption here.