Raptors look pretty intimidating. They've got big ol' talons, wickedly hooked beaks, and those piercing, 'you-really-don't-want-to-mess-with-me' eyes. But even tough birds are no match for speeding vehicles, tangled fishing line, and lead poisoning.
Since 1979, the non-profit Rocky Mountain Raptor Program has rescued, rehabilitated, and, when possible, released more than 3,500 sick and injured birds of prey. The organization now has seven staff members and 200 active volunteers. Nearly 275 birds are admitted to the facility every year, and more than 70% of the treatable birds are released back into the wild.
RMRP also engages in educational outreach at schools and community events, and through Behind the Scenes Tours at their facility. Their very talented Great Horned Owl writes her own blog. Hey, we knew they were wise, right?
A few of the raptors are available for viewing at Colorado State University's Environmental Learning Center, which is where my sons and I stopped to visit and take a few photos. It was lunch time for the birds, and we had the opportunity to watch a volunteer feed a dead mouse to a red-tailed hawk. (The hawks start with the head, end with the tail, and, when the birds are feeling particular, they won't eat the entrails. Who knew?) It was, as my younger son put it, "One of those 'cool' and 'I-never-want-to-see-it-again' moments."
(Check out that squirrel living dangerously in the background of the bottom picture.)