I first got involved with raptors about seven years ago. Up until then I worked almost exclusively with mammals and insects including mammal rehabilitation, field biology, population studies and a nation-wide research project on the biological control methods using Bacillus theringensis (Bt) on the corn root worm in Iowa. This previous mammal and insect work was tied to my B.S. degree in Biology/Environmental Studies from Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota.
The Neahtawanta Center recently agreed to act as the sponsoring organization for Rebecca Lessard who conducts raptor education programs in the schools. Following is her story relating how she became involved in this work.
So, raptors were fairly unfamiliar to me until seven years ago when I became involved with the rehabilitation of these birds. I was instantly and totally hooked! I was absolutely awed by the sense of presence and wisdom of these magnificent birds. I knew right then that I had to learn more...never anticipating how it would totally impact my life! In the past six years I have done all I could to learn more about these special creatures. I have attended many workshops and symposiums, sought out specific handling and medical techniques from dedicated experts and have continued a one week internship at the Minnesota Raptor Center every summer. For the past six years I have specialized in raptor rehabilitation. I work independently of any organization but do network extensively with rehabilitators and naturalists, both locally and distant. I am licensed by the Michigan DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for both my rehab birds and my permanently disabled program birds. For four years now I have been presenting raptor programs for this community...stressing the importance for, and urgency for, raptor education and conservation. I presently have three birds that travel with me; a Barred Owl, a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Great Horned Owl. All three are permanently disabled, two from human impact.
I hope that once people, attending my program, get a close look at these birds they can truly experience the awe and presence that I too have felt. My wish is for people to gain an understanding of the importance and specialness of these birds. My wish is for people to actively commit to the protection and conservation of all raptors.
Why do I do this work...I am often asked?!
I have strong passion for the raptors...they have truly struck a chord within me. A large part of my life is dedicated to promoting raptor education and the special needs and habitat requirements of these birds, as well as continuing my own personal journey with raptor rehabilitation, research and education. I am extremely blessed to have such a wonderfully supportive family as well as a very supportive community. I now have seven area veterinarians who donate their time, medical expertise and surgical skills to aide the raptors. Clinch Park Zoo provides me with all my raptor food...an unlimited supply of frozen rats and mice. In exchange I provide raptor care to their owls, hawks and eagles, trimming beaks and talons, medical treatments and basic preventative care. The Camera Store in Traverse City just recently volunteered their services and made 45 of my raptor photographs into slides. So now I have a new slide show addition to my educational programs. A new friend, an environmental attorney in Chicago has offered his legal services pro-bono and a professional wildlife photographer from Petoskey has been photographing several birds in my care and giving me copies of the prints and slides. The list goes on and on. My work with the raptors couldn't nor wouldn't be possible without this wonderful support. An now I am so honored to add the Neahtawanta Center to my raptor "family"!
Return to the Index of Synapse 35, Spring Equinox 1996