Awaiting new sanctuary

Juneau Raptor Center plans to build facility next to Brotherhood Bridge Park

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

Justice is half blind.

The one-eyed adult bald eagle, and Hootie, an ornery one-winged great horned owl, are two of the numerous birds unfit for release that volunteers from the Juneau Raptor Center are caring for at their homes until a new facility can be built.

The new center, to be built next to Brotherhood Bridge Park when enough funds are secured, will also provide much-needed space and amenities to care for releasable birds that are now treated in garages and basements across the borough.

"The only reason they're at people's houses is because we don't have a central place to keep them right now," said Janet Capito, Juneau Raptor Center vice president. "I'm looking forward to (the new facility) a lot instead of having to work in people's garages or basements - or my own basement."

The new facility is planned for a 1012-acre parcel that was transferred to the city last year from the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization. The land was purchased with $350,000 of federal conservation funds appropriated by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Each home that treats or houses a wild bird is known as a "satellite facility" and must be approved and permitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Juneau Raptor Center treats approximately 200 birds a year, said Capito.

Board member and education coordinator Kathy Benner, who has a backyard enclosure at her home for rehabilitating eagles, said the new structure will be multi-purpose with an emphasis on rehabilitation and education.

"We're not going to bring in tourists, that's not our focus," she said. "Our focus is for the community."

Benner said the Juneau Raptor Center, a nonprofit all-volunteer group, provides numerous programs each year at schools. Instead of transporting the educational birds, Benner hopes the new center will allow for the students to visit them on field trips.

"We talk a lot about what man does that injures birds," she said. "A lot of what we get are caused by what humans do to them."

Benner said common victims are birds that have been shot, electrocuted, poisoned, snared by fishing hooks or hit by motor vehicles. They also see a number of birds starving in spring.

Benner hopes education will help prevent future human-caused injuries.

"I think it teaches kindness to adults and children about living creatures," volunteer Pat Brock said. "It gives people a chance to see a bird up close that they might not have the opportunity to."

Brock said some of the educational birds include a peregrine falcon, a marsh hawk (also known as a harrier), a raven, a barred owl and a red-tail hawk.

Benner said the volunteer work is demanding, yet rewarding.

"Mainly it's the satisfaction of helping animals that are injured. If it wasn't for us there would be nobody to care for them," she said. "The satisfaction is to help out the animals, but also helping the people. ... We're willing and able to take that animal and help it and it makes people feel good."

The volunteer work not only takes a lot of time, it also takes a lot of money to care for all the animals, Benner said.

Capito said the center will reimburse volunteers for materials, but many choose to donate supplies.

"Our members spend a lot of their own money on bird care," she said.

The majority of funds comes from membership fees, as well as fund-raising; not from the government, as many people think, Benner said. The Juneau Raptor Center will be having several fund-raisers soon, including a wine tasting scheduled for April 21 at the Silverbow. On May 15, Juneau Appreciation Day, there will be a naturalist with a bald eagle at the top of Mount Roberts Tramway, with all proceeds from the tram going to the Juneau Raptor Center.

Benner said she hopes Juneau residents will be conscientious about injured birds, but remain cautious.

"If it's a raptor, we suggest that they call us and not try to handle the bird themselves, because raptors can be dangerous," she said. "If you come upon an injured raptor then call us and we will come and take care of it."

The Juneau Raptor Center can be contacted at 586-8393 for any inquires, and paged 24 hours a day at 790-5424 for any bird emergencies.

Until the new facility can be built, Juneau Raptor Center volunteers will continue to work out of their garages and basements.

"We will take any kind of bird that has a problem, try to answer any questions, and provide programs to anyone who requests them," Brock said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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