Birds of Prey Northwest continues to act as stewards for the avian species. Just recently the group was able to release another raptor into the wild after rehabilitation.
A juvenile bald eagle returned to the wild on Sunday, August 15 thanks to the efforts of Birds of Prey Northwest.
The juvenile bald eagle was one of 15 to have been under the care of Birds of Prey Northwest due to excessive heat affecting the area this summer.
“We’ve had unprecedented heat here, with no breaks in temperature so a lot of these guys bail from their nest, especially having black feathers in an un-shaded nest,” Birds of Prey Northwest Founder Janie Veltkamp said.
Birds of Prey is only used to seeing a few juvenile bald eagles every few years, this year has set a new record for the facility.
“We would maybe see a juvenile bald eagle every three years,” Veltkamp said. “We’ve had 15 in six weeks here because of the heat.”
Veltkamp said the eagles that have been brought to Birds of Prey have been from across the Idaho Panhandle and parts of eastern Washington.
She said with so many eagles being released into the wild this year, the group has been able to allow some of their long time employees to have the honor of releasing an eagle. This time Keaton Buell, who has worked for the group for more than six years, was able to do his first bald eagle release.
“I’ve done some of the smaller birds but a bald eagle is the pinnacle,” Buell said. “What an honor it is, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else, it’s fulfilling to work here every day.”
The St. Maries based Birds of Prey Northwest has been rehabilitating, caring for and educating the public on raptors for almost 20 years now. Buell said the group has seen immense growth over his time there.
“We are growing. In a normal year it costs us up to $40,000 to feed and care for the birds and it was definitely more than that this year with the influx of birds we are seeing,” Buell said.
A lot of the birds that are brought to Birds of Prey Northwest have had been in similar conditions as the juvenile bald eagle. Most are young birds that have fallen or have been blown out of their nest before they can fly and hunt for food themselves.
The educational side that Birds of Prey Northwest wants to stress to the public is how to report a bird that needs help, as their ultimate goal is to be able to return injured or orphaned birds to the wild. Buell said the best thing to do is to get the bird in a box or some kind of enclosure and to call the Idaho Fish and Game right away.
“Fish and Game will usually get someone in touch with us because they don’t handle raptors, because they are neither fish nor game,” Buell said.
Birds of Prey Northwest advise those who find a raptor to not feed it as this can cause the bird to imprint on humans, effectively making it impossible to return to the wild.
“An imprinted bird essentially thinks it’s human so its won’t be afraid of humans,” Buell said. “That’s why when we get a call of an aggressive bird that’s flying at people we know right away that it’s been imprinted on.”
Birds of Prey Northwest has been adamant on education over the last several months, hosting live bird presentations at places such as the St. Maries Public Library and Milling Center. Their goal is to spread their message to as many community members as possible, especially with the influx of birds being brought to their facility.
Veltkamp said the group hopes to expand and even have a larger location set up in Kootenai County. They hope to open a raptor center so that people can come to them instead of having to tour with the birds.
Birds of Prey Northwest can also be reached to set up tours or for educational programs. To set up a tour or to report a found bird call 208-245-1367 or visit their website at birdsofpreynorthwest.org.