CAFNR students, community members and other MU students gear up to volunteer their time and effort in rehabilitating injured raptors. Since 1972, the Raptor Rehabilitation Project organization at MU has been keeping this project soaring.
The Raptor Rehabilitation Project is a service and education organization of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, with about 70 active members and 140 members total. The project is based at a compound located down the hill from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Raptors include any bird of prey.
The organization has three goals: rehabilitate and release birds of prey back into the wild; educate the public about raptors and their importance in our environment; and gain more information about raptors.
“I became a part of the Raptor Rehabilitation Project when I was a freshman to gain some hands-on experience with exotic animal husbandry, training and rehabilitation,” said Susan Schmoker, a senior majoring in fisheries and wildlife, and minoring in captive wild animal management and biology. “This has already helped me get internships with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Mystic Aquarium, where I was able to work with penguins and sea lions. Hopefully this experience along with my internships will help me secure a job in marine animal husbandry at an AZA-accredited facility.”
Nine resident birds are permanently housed by the organization. Because of various injuries, these birds can’t be released, but are able to live comfortably as permanent residents with the Raptor Rehabilitation Project. The Program rehabilitated and released an estimated 112 birds last year.
“What usually happens is, we receive a call from the public or from the Missouri Department of Conservation,” said Christa Moore, public relations officer and sophomore in fisheries and wildlife. “Volunteers go out to pick up and examine the bird to determine whether or not surgery is needed.”
After this step, the raptor will undergo therapy and medication. Therapy includes a flight cage to build up flight muscle and live prey testing to ensure the raptor can capture its own food.
Volunteers help raise public awareness by giving presentations at schools, festivals and community events throughout central Missouri. These presentations are focused on teaching people the ecological and cultural importance of birds of prey.
“Our goals for the future include fixing as many birds as possible, let more people know about the work we do and continue to educate the public about raptor safety and how to handle them,” Moore said.
“My favorite part would definitely have to be getting to know all of the birds,” Schmoker said. “Our resident education birds are previously injured wild animals, each with a unique history and a huge personality. You invest a lot of energy in their care, and it is very rewarding when they start to trust you.”
If you have found an injured raptor, call the College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital immediately at 573-882-7821, or 573-882-4589 after 5 p.m. and on weekends.