Raptor Education Group Inc. – Over 30 years of Saving Birds in Wisconsin

Rescued Birds Need Help Before Getting Back to the Sky

OnFocus – The pandemic has forced the hand of many people around the world to cut funding to non-profit organizations. These organizations rely on donations, volunteerism and other forms of local support to keep their doors open.

One of these non-profit organizations, Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI), has been serving Wisconsin since 1990. The group takes injured or misplaced birds, rehabilitates them, and releases them back into the wild. The group cared for 1,200 birds last year, 100 of which were Eagles.

They are much more than just a rehab facility for birds though. They help educate the public about birds and what you can do to help them flourish in our ecosystem.

Just last week, the group, with the assistance of DNR Warden Erica Taylor and Marshfield Police Officers Bob Larsen, Kayla Wolf and Anthony Klein, rescued a duck that was stuck in a local pond. Executive Director of REGI Marge Gibson said Dudley the duck would have been in trouble if people hadn’t called to notify REGI of his situation.

Dudley the Duck currently resides at Raptor Education Group Inc.’s facility in hopes that he will become strong enough to rejoin his flock.

“His story could have ended on that pond in a tragic way, but for many compassionate people that stepped in and stepped up to save him and prove once again that it is people, members of the public, that can and do make a difference for wildlife in trouble,” Gibson said. “We are grateful and Dudley is now safe has a smile on his beak.”

The duck, affectionately named Dudley after his rescue, was transported to the REGI facility in Antigo, WI where he is currently undergoing rehabilitation. Read more about Dudley’s rescue HERE. The group helps birds like Dudley learn how to fly, eat or just survive out of captivity again before releasing them back into the wild.

REGI wasn’t always about rescuing and nursing birds back to health. If you were growing up in central Wisconsin during the last 30 years, you may remember large birds with their handlers  coming to your school or library or other place of gathering. There is a good chance that Marge and her husband Don had a part in educating you about the birds that day.

The group also hosts educational tours of their facility where you can walk around and see many types of birds they are caring for. REGI is hopeful that it will be able to restart those tours this summer pending the COVID-19 situation.

“It creates a broader understanding of the species,” Marge said. “Sometimes people are afraid of an owl or something but once they see them up close, it really changes that image and they can incorporate reality into what they know about them. You don’t often see them in the wild so it’s a really important part of what we do.”

Gibson said REGI is mostly working with illegal shootings and trappings as well as bird poisonings while Wisconsin’s native birds have migrated south for the winter. In spring, birds breed and the hatchlings may sometimes be orphaned for a variety of reasons. REGI does its best to take in these orphans and help them grow to be self-sufficient.

When a rehabilitation doesn’t go as planned or the bird cannot adapt to being back in the wild, the bird isn’t just thrown out into the wild to fend for itself.

These pelicans were rescued from Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, WI. They had lost their ability to swallow food and their bodies were shutting down. They are now being placed in captivity where they will be fed and appreciated. Photo Courtesy of REGI.

“We have a wide outreach throughout the country like Cincinnati Zoo, that takes a lot of our birds that are not releasable,” Marge said. “We’re just now are placing some of our pelicans that we got out of Green Bay because they are not releasable. Pelicans happen to be the comedians of the bird world so they don’t mind captivity as much. As long as they’ve got fish, they’re good.”

Marge assured that if the bird wouldn’t be comfortable living in captivity, the team at REGI makes sure to find a situation that works better for it.

In the future, if you encounter a bird that is injured or appears to be orphaned, you can help REGI nurse the bird back to health. If you feel comfortable, you can put a towel in the bottom of a cardboard box and either call REGI at (715) 623-4015 to have them send a transporter out to you or you can transport the bird to the REGI facility in Antigo yourself.

The group is always looking for donations and volunteers to help with transporting birds.

“We’re a non-profit and we don’t get state or federal funds,” Marge said. “For everything we count on the public, actually. We do need volunteers from Marshfield to drive birds to us. We don’t have any in Marshfield at all but the patients usually have to get to us pretty quickly.”

The drive from REGI’s facility in Antigo takes about an hour and a half from Marshfield. Having a volunteer that is willing to pick up injured birds in the Marshfield area and transport them to Antigo would not only save the company from spending money on driving out here, but save precious time for a bird that may not have much time left.

Marge said with over 300 birds at their facility at any given time, they rely on the public to help them with certain tasks.

“We’re so grateful to the public,” Marge said. “More and more, we count on them because agencies are pulling financing. A lot of it falls to private sector, including us. We count on the public to fill in and help us.”

Visit http://www.raptoreducationgroup.org/ to learn more about REGI and how to help birds in your area.

We welcome your stories! Contact us at [email protected]!

Neal Hogden
Author: Neal Hogden