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Catch-22 for the Juneau Raptor Center

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 11:01pm
A great horned owl with a head injury readies for transport to Sitka last week for rehabilitation at the Alaska Raptor Center.  Photo courtesy of Scot Tiernan
Photo courtesy of Scot Tiernan
A great horned owl with a head injury readies for transport to Sitka last week for rehabilitation at the Alaska Raptor Center.

The Juneau Raptor Center is in a catch-22: it needs funding for a new facility, but without a facility, it’s having difficulty getting funding, says volunteer and treasurer Scot Tiernan.

The JRC has been without a flight mew, a large covered structure used to rehabilitate birds, since earlier this year, when the volunteers on whose property the flight mew was constructed moved out of Juneau. Volunteers used the flight mew to let birds regain strength and familiarity with flying in a safe environment.

The JRC’s office is also in transition: They’ve moved to an office on Jordan Avenue, where they plan to provide emergency care for injured birds, but that office is not yet ready to open.

They built the flight mew around 2000, Tiernan said. But it had its limitations: it had no running water and no heat, which meant the birds’ food froze unless volunteers kept it in their houses. The structure also didn’t shed snow.

“It made maintenance a little hard,” Tiernan said. “But we were thankful to have it.”

Now that the volunteers on whose property the mew stood have left Juneau, the JRC is seeking a place with access to heat and running water.

The new structure would need to be at least 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 feet high. As they don’t have the money to purchase a property, they’re looking for someone that might donate it.

Tiernan estimates that since losing access to the flight mew, they’ve flown between ten and 15 birds to Sitka this year for flight reconditioning — mostly eagles, but also two or three owls. They flew a great horned owl with a head injury to Sitka earlier this month.

“That’s our mission,” said Debbie Reeder, Executive Director of the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. “That’s why we built the flight mew. We’re always happy to have the birds if we can help them.”

Reeder said the Sitka center helps between 100 and 200 birds per year, all from Southeast Alaska.

Tiernan estimates that between 20 and 25 percent of the birds the Juneau Raptor Center rehabilitates are raptors. The rest are “a conglomeration of everything else that flies around Juneau,” from hummingbirds to a yellow-billed loon.

Right now, the Juneau Raptor Center cares for “Lady Baltimore” and “Justice,” both eagles, as well as a raven, two varieties of red-tailed hawk, a stellar jay, a gyrfalcon and a barn owl. All are housed in volunteers’ garages or homes.

Tiernan said the JRC wants to expand so it can provide better care for the birds. What would be ideal is to have a facility with a flight mew, emergency care facilities, office space and education birds all in one place, Tiernan said. He points to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka as what Juneau would like to achieve.

Reeder said it took the ARC “a long time to get here … It’s been a long, long process.”

She said the Alaska Raptor Center didn’t have a flight mew until 2003. It likely would have taken much longer, but the center gained a very large private donor.

“I don’t know how we got that lucky,” she said. “And then every year has its own set of issues. You’ve got to come up with the funding to sustain what you’ve built. Some years it’s kind of scary.”

The annual operating budget for the center is around $800,000, which is all financed through private money, Reeder said. The Juneau Raptor Center is primarily financed through memberships and fundraising.

While the JRC has more than 100 members — some of them out-of-state — it only has nine active volunteers, Tiernan said.

Those interested in volunteering with or becoming a member of the JRC can call 586-8393 or email info@juneauraptorcenter.org.

• Contact Outdoors reporter Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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