The shuttle driver from Fortress of the Bear kindly let my parents, sister, and I off at the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka on the way back to town after our visit to the Fortress of the Bear, with promises to come back for us in an hour. We exited the bus and made our way to the booth to buy our tickets. A short walk down a small hill brought us to some caged birds outside. Signs said the injuries that brought these birds to the raptor center would leave them flightless, living the rest of their lives in captivity as they could not survive in the wild. Raptor refers to any bird of prey that hunts for its meat such as eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons.
They had quite a variety of different eagles, hawks, and owls. A young snowy owl made me think of Harry’s owl, Hedwig in Harry Potter. Of course this flightless injured owl will never grow up to deliver mail. Not that real owls deliver mail like the owls in the story do. Though it couldn’t fly it did give people an opportunity to see what Hedwig would have looked like. They also had an eagle owl like the one Harry’s arch enemy Draco Malfoy had.
Later during the start of a presentation inside the center we found out that flightless birds with a suitable personality for it become something like spokesbirds for the center. Though these birds will never fly again they have a useful and productive life. They go around to schools and other places with handlers from the center to teach people about raptors. Not all birds are that social so the others stay at the center or find homes in places like zoos. Some go to breeding centers where their offspring can be released into the wild.
Bald eagles, plentiful in Alaska, made up the majority of the raptor center’s population. Inside the center had some bigger areas where birds destined to someday return to the wild lived. These eagles had room to fly, a skill they needed to relearn before regaining their freedom. Birds not too badly injured to return to the wild someday had as little contact with humans as possible. A stream stocked with fish provides food they can hunt on their own.
The center had a gift shop and a presentation area. They had sign saying a presentation would start soon. Shortly after we sat down to wait for it a large group arrived on an official cruise ship tour. We saw my uncle and cousin in that group, part of my extended family that came on the Holland America Westerdam cruise with us. They stayed for the entire presentation with their cruise ship tour, while we had to duck out just after the movie near the beginning to meet our bus at the prescribed time.
The Sitka raptor center sends out people to rescue injured birds when someone reports an injured bird to the center. They take birds that are unable to fly back with them, however if the bird can fly they leave it in the wild. Injured birds from other areas of the state also end up in Sitka. Humans are the main source of injuries to the birds. Common injuries come from collisions with power lines or cars and poisonings with fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Many birds come to the center with broken bones or gunshot wounds. They treat about 100-200 birds each year.
The raptor center sits on the outskirts of Sitka, close enough for those without any walking difficulties to walk to from the cruise ship tender pier.