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Indiana Raptor Center rehabilitates birds, educates public

June 30, 2012 at 06:58 PM

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Ben, an American bald eagle, sat perched in her cage in the forests outside of Nashville, waiting for yet another quail to be thrown her way by Laura Edmunds. Ben, originally thought to be a male, called loudly for more quail, until she’d finished eight, emptying the tray Edmunds was carrying.

Ben has taken up residence at the Indiana Raptor Center after having been found in Missouri shot through the left shoulder. Her cohort, Piper, another bald eagle, had made a similar trip after having been hit by a semi-trailer in Michigan. Both were healthy and hungry, but unable to return to the wild.

“They’re the reason we’re here. Our goal is to help these birds recuperate and then return them to as normal of a life as possible,” said Patti Reynolds, president and executive director of Indiana Raptor Center.

The center is a local organization committed to rehabilitating injured or orphaned birds of prey. Edmunds and Reynolds are the organization’s only two employees. Currently on site, they house dozens of birds in various stages of recovery, from peregrine falcons to screech owls to a toeless turkey vulture. Most will return to the wild, a few, unable to live independently, will remain on the grounds and be used for outreach and education. On average, they rehabilitate 80 to 100 birds a year at a better than 50 percent survival rate, a feat considering the dire condition of many of the birds upon arrival.

“It can be hectic here,” said Edmunds, comparing the constant flux of incoming and outgoing birds to the frenzied schedule of a fire station. “We’ll make or arrange for pickups 24 hours a day. It’s taxing, but worthwhile.”

In addition to the convalescence and reintegration of damaged birds, they also handle a heavy load of educational programs; making nearly 120 visits a year, stopping at schools, museums and libraries.

“We’ll go anywhere they’ll listen to us,” Reynolds said.

“We feel the best way to ensure the future of these birds is for everyone to have a chance to meet one. Once you look one in their eyes, it forever changes the way you seem them,” she said.

The Indiana Raptor Center is a labor of love for Reynolds and Edmunds, the education director. Both have long histories of caring for birds while holding down a full-time job.

But, in 2004, Reynolds retired from Eli Lilly after 30 years of working in research and regulation and committed herself entirely to the care and recovery of birds.

For Edmunds, the love of birds has been a longtime passion, having worked at various bird recovery organizations in the past, including starting Wild Birds Unlimited in Fort Wayne. It all began when she received a cockatiel as a birthday gift.

“I hadn’t realized my love of birds yet, but once that little bird hopped onto my finger, it was over. And here I am, 25 years later, up to my ankles in bird feathers,” said Edmunds.

The Indiana Raptor Center is completely funded by donations and grants, and beyond Reynolds and Edmunds, staffed entirely by volunteers.

“We feel exceptionally fortunate for all the support we receive from Brown County, both financially and emotionally. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has been wonderful to us. We consider them partners,” Edmunds said.

Keith Collins, a professional bassoonist in his third year of volunteering, became involved after watching an Indiana Raptor Center exhibition, where he discovered a connection with the birds. Wanting to do more, he began volunteering.

“At the time I didn’t have money, but I did have time,” he said.

After a recent spate of local birds having been found shot, the Indiana Raptor Center will embark on a public awareness campaign to raise consciousness of the effects and illegality of shooting raptors. The campaign will include artwork by nationally renowned bird artist Bill Zimmerman. A press conference is also in the works.

Asked what else lies in store for the Indiana Raptor Center, Edmunds said, “We’ll just be right here, taking care of these birds.”

___

Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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