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Funds for flight

Chocolay Raptor Center receives grant amid pandemic

Jerry Maynard, left, and Bob Jensen, cofounders of the Chocolay Raptor Center, address a crowd at Tuesday’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty. Birds like the peregrine falcon, held by Maynard, and the red-tailed hawk, held by Jensen, are protected because of this treaty. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

HARVEY — Although the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled or postponed many educational programs, the underlying need for their missions still remains.

So, the nonprofit Chocolay Raptor Center was pleased to receive a $2,000 grant from the AEP Renewables’ Apple Blossom Wind Project, a subsidiary of American Electric Power and AEP Energy.

Apple Blossom is AEP Renewable’s 100-megawatt wind farm project located in downstate Huron County. According to its website at www.aeprenewables.com/apple-blossom-wind/, it uses 29 wind turbines, generating enough electricity to power roughly 38,000 Michigan homes.

The grant was especially appreciated because the center lost all income from speaker fees because of program cancellations. However, it still requires items such as mice, rats, quail, medical supplies and support equipment for the welfare of the birds.

Jerry Maynard, co-founder with Bob Jensen of the center that has educated people about birds and focused on their rehabilitation since 2012, said operations have been severely curtailed since March.

This is the Chocolay Raptor Center’s flight cage used in the rehabilitation of birds. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

“I think we did programs at a Gwinn elementary school in very early March, and then within a week, things started shutting down,” Maynard said. “So, the rest of our programs from March and April were canceled.”

The center also had two programs a week scheduled for the summer.

And as is the case with the COVID-19 situation nowadays, the future is uncertain.

Maynard said although the center does not receive speaker fees from schools, it does from groups that can afford it.

“That’s a significant part of our income,” Maynard said. “So, I was just starting to get worried about that.”

One of the grants for which he applied was the Apple Blossom grant, which supports bird rehabilitation.

Of course, it would be hard to accomplish avian rehab without food and equipment, and the grant will go toward those necessities.

Although educating people about raptors, also known as birds of prey, is part of the center’s mission, its work also involves rehabilitating birds to be released back into the wild.

Maynard said the center is getting help from two Copper Country residents: Michelle Anderson, a veterinary technician, and Beth Maata, who works in security at Michigan Tech. Both have been involved in rehab, with Anderson now building cages.

They could be the center’s future, with Maynard calling them the center’s “retirement plan.”

The Chocolay Raptor Center now has two permanent residents: Phoenix, a peregrine falcon, and Erik, a red-tailed hawk. Both are housed in the mews at the center.

“I’m not looking for any more education birds, and if we did get a non-releasable for education, I’d try to get Beth or Michelle to train him,” Maynard said.

In the meantime Phoenix and Erik, likely will hold people’s interest in an education program considering few people see these birds, especially a peregrine falcon, up close.

Raptors differ from songbirds, shorebirds and other avian life, with sharp beaks and talons. Compare a picture of a great horned owl with one of a ruby-throated hummingbird or song sparrow and you’ll see why.

“They’re a little bit bigger than most of the other birds,” Maynard said. “They’re so strikingly handsome, as you can see, with their look, their gaze, and I think part of it may be that they’re competitors with humans.

“We’re both apex on the food scale. We’re fascinated by other ones.”

Then there’s their history.

Humans have been taming and hunting with raptors — particularly falcons but other raptors too — for a long time, he said.

“For thousands of years, we’ve been working together,” Maynard said.

To learn more about the Chocolay Raptor Center, visit its Facebook page, which contains a live-stream program featuring owls.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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