HELENA — The Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation is working on raising funds to remodel and expand the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Montana WILD.
The organization is planning to execute a Campaign Feasibility Study in early 2020 to determine specific raise goals and priorities. The hope is to create a better facility for the animals under the care of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), such as the more than a dozen “ambassador birds” that call the center home.
FWP’s ambassador birds at Montana WILD include owls, hawks, falcons, kestrels and eagles.
The birds of prey participate in regular education programs at Montana WILD and schools.
Handlers say when it comes to education of these animals, nothing compares to the real thing.
“The real value of the education and outreach programs at Montana WILD comes in increasing the public’s appreciation and awareness of what our wildlife is all about,” said Art Compton, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center volunteer. “We have an enormous impact and enormous beneficial effect on the public’s knowledge of our wildlife, their appreciation and therefore their support.”
The center works on a very tight budget with more than 40 volunteers spending a combined 400 hours each month caring for the ambassador birds and any other animal in the center’s care.
Originally constructed for the rehabilitation of bears, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center sees around a hundred birds each year that were injured in the wild. Large predators like bears and bobcats are also cared for at the facility.
Staff and volunteers work hard to give the animals the best chance at returning to the wild.
“Our rehabilitation birds are kept separate,” said Compton. “We don’t handle them at all to keep them wild, and most importantly don’t want them to associate us with food.”
The goal is always to prepare the animal to be released back into the wild, but that’s unfortunately not always possible.
“In some cases after doing extensive work with them we realize that they’re just not going to be a good candidate for release,” said Laurie Wolf, FWP Education Bureau Chief. “In those cases we will look at their disposition, their personality and see if they would be a potential ambassador bird either for us here at Montana WILD or for another facility.”
Although the bird will never return to the wild, staff say these animals will have a much greater impact on species as a whole by helping educate people on how to be good stewards and what makes Montana’s outdoors so great.
“Here at FWP we’re pretty fortunate with many of us get to to get outdoors and recreate,” said Wolf. “But in some instances, especially with a lot of our youth, they’re not getting that opportunity. This gives them a chance to experience that animal and hopefully get excited about that species and conserving that species.”
Raptor programs are offered every Monday and Friday at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at Montana WILD.
People wishing to volunteer for the rehabilitation center should contact Montana WILD for more information.