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Jan 6, 2015 1:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Rescue Center Begins Work On Raptor Cage

Jan 6, 2015 2:25 PM

Eagles, owls, falcons and other birds of prey that are found injured on Long Island will soon be able to recover and rehabilitate in Hampton Bays.

The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center is now constructing a raptor flight conditioning cage—a 16-foot-high outdoor cage made of wooden posts and chain-link fencing—that will serve as a halfway house for recovering birds. The facility, which should be completed later this month, is designed to make their transition from captivity as smooth as possible, allowing the birds to be released back into the wild as quickly as possible.

“There’ll be ponds and logs and all kinds of stuff in there,” said Jim Hunter, a 71-year-old Sag Harbor resident and volunteer at the wildlife rescue center. “We want to make it as natural as possible, so they’ll have to work to get their lunch; that way they can be ready to be released back into the wild.”

Opened by Sag Harbor resident Ginnie Frati, now the center’s executive director, with the help of her husband, Augie, in 2000, the facility takes on injured animals of kinds, including birds as small as pigeons and as common as seagulls to mute swans and pheasants. The center also assists in rehabilitating other animals, such as squirrels and deer.

Primarily focused on serving the five eastern towns—Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island—the rescue center’s 10 paid staff members, along with 100 or so volunteers, pick up injured animals found in the wild and nurse them back to health in order to, ideally, release them.

If their injuries are too severe, or if they’ve remained in captivity for too long, the animals live at the center and are used for educational purposes. Meep, a gray horned owl, is one of the center’s permanent residents. He was found about three years ago and, at the time, was suffering from two broken wings and a fractured pelvis after falling out of his nest when he was just two days old.

The birds of prey, or raptors as they are formally known, have unique needs, however. Rather than being able to live off seeds or vegetation, raptors feed on small mammals, so they must keep their hunting skills sharp, which can be difficult to do while in captivity. Before releasing them, the wildlife rescue center first makes sure the raptors are both able to fly normally and hunt effectively, Mr. Hunter said.

Here’s where the raptor flight conditioning cage comes in handy.

The 40-foot-by-60-foot cage will have six 8-foot-by-12-foot cages in its middle and surrounded by open space. The birds will be allowed to fly in the open area and must catch small vermin that wander into the cage in order survive. Mr. Hunter said the birds will be monitored to make sure they are feeding themselves sufficiently and, if they are, only then can they be released.

“I think it’s exciting to be able to rehabilitate the large birds of prey and see it all the way through,” Ms. Frati said.

Since there is no such facility currently on Long Island, Mr. Hunter said all the birds that are rescued on the East End must be sent to the Raptor Trust, a top facility in New Jersey, to be fully rehabilitated. That setup is problematic because the birds sent there are then released in New Jersey, slowly diminishing the raptor population on Long Island and, specifically, the East End.

“We want to keep our birds out here if we can,” Mr. Hunter said. “Also, we want to attract avian vets to let them know we’re here and our facility is free as space allows.”

The cage, which is being is being built by Eastern Post and Beam, will cost the center about $40,000, Mr. Hunter said, with half the project’s funding coming from matching $10,000 donations from the philanthropic organization Island Outreach Foundation in Blue Point and the Quogue-based Leo S. Walsh Foundation. The rest was taken from surplus funds from rescue center’s annual $500,000 budget, which is bankrolled exclusively by charitable contributions, Mr. Hunter said.

The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, which is located in Munn’s Pond County Park, is licensed through the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. The center takes in about 1,300 sick and injured animals each year.

Staff members, some of whom have gone on to become licensed veterinarians, work year-round and on holidays, Mr. Frati said, adding that the staff came in first thing on Christmas morning to make sure the animals were each fed in accordance with their specific dietary needs.

“The animals have to eat,” he said. “They don’t know it’s a holiday.”

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This sounds like a terrible idea. Didn't you idiots see what happened with Jurassic Park!?
By Pacman (115), East Quogue on Jan 9, 15 11:19 AM
they remember......
By upnorth (1), Riverhead on Jan 9, 15 4:20 PM
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