By Caroline Wigmore
HOWARD LAKE, MN - Eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons, are usually only spotted from a distance, but Saturday, Feb. 14, the Raptor Center is coming to The Country Store in Howard Lake for a free presentation that will give locals a chance to get as close as 10 feet to these birds.
The raptors will be on display from 10 to 11 a.m., as part of a program called “The bald eagle program,” which will feature an eagle, a hawk, a falcon, and an owl.
“You, get pretty close to the birds, its kind of a beak to nose way to get to know them,” Gail Buhl of the Raptor Center said.
The program is 45 minutes long, and includes information on the natural history of the birds and also how they help the environment.
Following the program, The Country Store will be serving a free lunch which will include various dishes made with Minnesota wild rice.
The Raptor Center has a rehabilitation program for injured or orphaned raptors, taking in more than 800 birds per year.
Some of these birds are not able to be released into the wild again, either because of injury or because of being raised in captivity.
“These birds then become our ambassadors,” Buhl said, explaining that it’s the birds that are unable to survive in the wild that take part in raptor programs, such as the one coming to The Country Store.
The Raptor Center was formed in 1974 and has contributed not only to the rehabilitation and conservation of raptors, but also has furthered study of the birds, identifying emerging issues related to raptor health and populations.
The center also provides training in raptor medicine and surgery for veterinarians from around the world. The center also reaches more than 250,000 people each year through public education programs and events.
“The essence of our mission is to strengthen the bond between humans and birds, to improve the quality of life for both, and to contribute to the preservation of the natural world,” Buhl said.
How to help an injured raptor
The following information was provided by the Raptor Center.
• Do not attempt to rehabilitate a raptor on your own. Always contact a licensed professional. If you are unsure of who to notify, you can contact The Raptor Center, or appropriate agencies in your area: The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Your state’s Department of Natural Resources or Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, or the local sheriff’s office.
• If you must handle or move a bird, first cover the bird with a blanket or towel to reduce its visual stimulation, and protect yourself by wearing heavy gloves and safety glasses. Then, gently fold the bird’s wings into its body with your two gloved hands. Gently, but firmly, lift the bird into a transport container. Remember that even a seriously injured raptor is potentially dangerous. Wild birds do not understand when people are trying to help them, and will try to defend themselves. They are quite unpredictable, and you should be especially aware of their sharp beak and talons.
• The best way to transport a raptor is in a plastic dog or cat kennel, or in a sturdy cardboard box with the top closed. Avoid bird or wire cages, as these can cause feather and soft tissue damage. The carrier should have plenty of ventilation holes and should only be slightly larger than the size of the bird. The less room an injured bird has to move around, the less likely it is to cause more injury to itself. However, on the flip side, if a container is too small, a bird can sustain extensive wing and feather damage.
• Never feed an injured raptor unless you have been instructed to do so by a licensed rehabilitator. The dietary needs of raptors are more delicately balanced than people realize. Even the juiciest steak imaginable will not provide a raptor with what it needs. Also, most injured birds are suffering from dehydration, and attempting to feed them or give them water orally may worsen their condition. At The Raptor Center, these patients are given a special fluid therapy for a day or two to jump-start their systems before any type of food is provided.
• Handle an injured raptor as little as possible. Stress resulting from human contact can reduce a bird’s chance of recovery.
• Until the bird can be transferred, provide it with a dark, quiet, calm, warm environment. Darkness has a calming effect on birds. Extra care should be taken to keep the bird away from children and pets.
• Do not keep a raptor any longer than is necessary to get it to a veterinary professional, raptor rehabilitator, or state/federal wildlife representative.
Want to attend the raptor program?
Admission is free to the Raptor Center program at The Country Store in Howard Lake.
The event is from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.
A free lunch that will include various dishes made of Minnesota wild rice will also be served after the program.
For more information about the Raptor Center, visit its web site at www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu