Recuperating raptors at Medicine River Wildlife Centre will not be able to move into their new compound unless more donors step up to help the wildlife hospital.
Executive director Carol Kelly said about two-thirds of the raptor compound is complete, including the metal-clad roof and part of the walls, but about $60,000 worth of materials are needed to finish.
In the meantime, about 20 to 25 hawks, owls, eagles, and a few small falcons are making due in the three, old cages that have seen better days.
During a winter storm in 2013, the roof on the centre’s aging flight compound collapsed, injuring two and killing two resident eagles.
“The only thing that’s holding up some of these cages are the trees that stand next to them. If there were no trees they would have blown over,” Kelly said.
She said once an extra eagle was able to squeeze inside one of the cages for a free meal.
“Ours couldn’t fly out, but the way it was, he could manage to get in and thought the gophers and the fish we feed them look just lovely.”
Staff are also playing “musical cages” when raptors in smaller cages are ready to be moved into the longer cage to practice flying.
“It’s not great, but we’re kind of limping through until we can get the rest of that compound finished.”
The facility will include eight cages under one roof, varying in sizes, to accommodate all raptors, from the tiny pygmy and saw-whet owls, to bald and golden eagles.
She said despite the issues, the centre can still accept more raptors, and fall is when hawks suffer more injuries.
“We always call August/September our crazy hawk season. It’s the teenagers who get into trouble. They’re just not as aware of the hazards. The older hawks have been out there enough so they’ve encountered the issues so they know what to do.”
Juvenile hawks are leaving their territory or migrating and the number one cause of injuries is getting hit by a vehicle.
She said far fewer injuries are caused by barbed wire and electrocution these days because of the efforts by government and power companies to reduce the dangers to wildlife.
As migration begins, staff are waiting to find out how long rough-legged hawks will stay in Central Alberta this fall which seems to be a good way to predict the weather.
Kelly said if rough-legged hawks, that breed in the far north, show up in Central Alberta in early October but don’t stay in the area, a hard winter is ahead. But if they hang around, winter tends to be mild.
“It’s just something we’ve observed.”
Medicine River Wildlife Centre, located southwest of Spruce View, cares for more than 2,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year, including about 300 raptors.