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Rescuing Raptors At Glen Helen

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Renee Wilde
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WYSO

The Glen Helen Raptor Center is a non profit organization which takes in about 150 injured or orphaned birds of prey a year. The Raptor Center is run by a former volunteer turned director, Betty Ross. For over 30 years she has been caring for injured birds, conducting public educational programs, and assisting state agencies with recovery efforts for endangered and threatened species.

So what kind of bird can you find here?  Hawks, owls, falcon’s, vultures, kites, osprey and eagles.

While we were talking, Harry Marsh brought in an injured, juvenile hawk. 

"Broke my heart seeing this," says Marsh. "We been watching them for weeks playing and the mother and father feeding them. And it’s been neat. There were three babies in the nest."

Betty takes the injured hawk and we make our way into the building, where she pulls on her leather gloves and lifts the young hawk out to examine it.

"It’s so hard because the mortality rate the first year of life for raptors is 80%. So even if their parents are taking wonderful care of them [they don't always survive]," says Ross.

She takes care of the injured bird quickly and then focuses on her next problem, which is finding food for all these rehabilitating birds under her care.

"We’re going to have a problem with a shortage of food coming up in the next couple of years because a major supplier of where we always got donated rodents has gone out of business," says Ross.  "We have about thirty permanent residents, we get 150 plus birds a year. You talk about a great horned owl could eat about 6 mice a day, or a large rat. So we need rats."

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Credit Renee Wilde / WYSO
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WYSO
Ross talks to Glen Helen visitors about the Raptor Center

One of everyone’s favorite events at the center are the releases, where rehabilitated birds are introduced back into wild. This usually takes place around an open meadow in the Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

"We just had our owl release, and that was, oh my gosh, we probably had about 90 - 100 people come besides all our eco campers," says Ross.  Sometimes the birds immediately take off into the tree, and other times, "They will just stand there on someone's hand, they have no clue what to do at that point. Some of them are wriggling and trying to get away.  People ask me, isn’t it difficult, you know, after taking care of something, to release it. And I said ‘That’s the best thing in the world.You don’t rehabilitate to make a pet out of something or to keep it. You rehabilitate to get it back to the wild’. And that is the most gratifying thing there is."

You can find out more about the raptor center and upcoming releases by visiting www.glenhelen.org.