Raptor Center holds open house to inform public of its mission

Peter Johnson

The Raptor Center, part of the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, hosted an open house Sunday to inform the campus and public at large of its mission to provide care to injured birds of prey.
The center cares primarily for raptors, a group which includes eagles, hawks, owls and falcons — all predators that use their feet to seize prey. These birds are often injured as a direct result of their interaction with humans and are often found shot, hit by cars, trapped or sick from lead poisoning by hunters’ lead shots.
The center was founded in 1974 by Dr. Gary Duke and current director Dr. Patrick Redig.
“The founding of the Raptor Center occurred in the early 1970s, when as a country and as a people we were awash in an awakening of environmental consciousness,” Redig explained. “Many species of animals were being put on the endangered species list as a result of decades of persecution, poisoning and environmental degradation.”
Redig founded the center when he was studying veterinary medicine at the University but had been interested in raptors since he was a child.
“We do three things: medical care; public and veterinary student education; and research, primarily in the medical-physiological area,” he explained.
The center faces an increasing case load and will probably treat 800 cases this year. Of the injured birds treated, approximately 45 percent will later be released into the wild.
Ruediger Korbel, an associate professor of avian medicine, came to the center from Munich, Germany. He specializes in avian optometry, “primarily looking at the avian eye and doing ophthalmology.”
Forty percent of the birds in the center suffer from eye disorders, usually caused by trauma and hemorrhaging in the eye. Korbel uses surgery and treatments, such as antibiotics, to cure the problems.
Yasuko Suzuki, from Kanagawa, Japan, specializes in orthopedic surgery and is kept busy by mending broken wings and bones — a common diagnosis. The center uses stainless steel pins and external fixators to mend bones surgically, all of which are removed before birds are released. The success rate of the procedure is 80 percent.
The Raptor Center is world-renowned, often accepting birds from around the country and occasionally from around the world.
“This is the premiere facility for raptor medicine anywhere in the world,” said center volunteer Joanne Haugen.
The center operates on a $1.5 million budget, only 15 percent of which comes from the University.
“A large part of our success is due to the community we live in,” Redig said.
The center receives donations from corporations like 3M, Target, Petsmart and Northwest Airlines, which provides free transport for injured birds. It also receives funding from individuals such as the Dayton family and Don and Louise Gabbert.