MARQUETTE - The Chocolay Raptor Center is focusing its efforts on raptor education over rehabilitation.
Jerry Maynard founded the center in Chocolay Township in 2012 to help the raptors, or birds of prey, that he said are so important to the ecosystem.
Maynard and his assistant, Bob Jensen, have rehabilitated birds at the center, but now want to emphasis educating the public about raptors' role in the world.
Bob Jensen, an assistant at the Chocolay Raptor Center, handles Erik, a red-tailed hawk that will be part of the center’s education programs in the community. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
Educating the public about raptors' role in the food chain is important, he stressed, which leads to teaching people about related environment issues such as habitat destruction and water quality.
"Education is really the mission," Maynard said.
Maynard said the center has three permanent birds: Phoenix, a peregrine falcon that hatched in May 2011, the first successful hatching in the nest box at the WE Energies' Presque Isle Power Plant; Erik a red-tailed hawk; and Sage a great horned owl. Phoenix and Erik already have been used in presentations.
Maynard said the center presented 21 programs in 2013, the last five with live birds, and he has a goal of at least 40 this year. The center is asking for a donation of $150 for each program to cover the costs of food, medications, vet services, gasoline and capital improvements. It costs $1,500 per year to care for a bird, Maynard said.
So far, the fee has been waived for schools. However, Maynard said he plans to approach foundations to sponsor school programs through grants.
Meanwhile, the three center birds are kept at the center in winterized mews covered in plastic, Jensen said.
"As long as you keep the wind out, they're in pretty good shape," Jensen said.
Cold affecting their feet is the biggest danger for Phoenix and Erik, he said, so they each have a heated perch. The birds also have heated water dishes.
Sage, however, is fine with a box with a base of pine needles. This owl's larger size and different feet, Jensen explained, allow the bird to cope with cold weather better.
Jensen said he still worries about Erik, what with his broken wing that keeps him from bringing it in all the way to his body to conserve heat. Therefore, a more careful eye is kept on the hawk. Erik's life at the center also is enriched by giving him a couple of day-old chicks once a week for a break in its diet.
Maynard said Phoenix has been a cooperative, calm bird "on the glove," as has been Erik, with the red-tailed hawk considered one of the "steady six" species of raptor handling; the eastern and western screech owls, the great horned owl, the American kestrel and the saw-whet owl are the others.
"The key to training to the glove is to get them thinking the glove is a safe spot, and a good spot to be," Maynard said.
Once the birds are well trained to the glove, it is hoped a classroom will be another good spot for the avian ambassadors.
For more information, contact Maynard at 249-3598 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.