Weyerhaeuser Donation Supports Birds at Carolina Raptor Center

Dec 12, 2013 9:30 AM ET

Weyerhaeuser - Communities

It’s a big bird. 

Not the yellow, fluffy “Sesame Street” variety but rather a wild bald eagle with needle-sharp talons, razor-sharp eyes, and a hooked beak for tearing flesh. Its enclosure is the newest flight cage at Carolina Raptor Center, a research and rehabilitation facility in Huntersville, N.C., just north of Charlotte.   At 22 feet wide by 110 feet long and about 25 feet high, the flight cage is an essential last step in an injured raptor’s rehabilitation, giving the bird the opportunity to exercise its wing muscles and practice mousing before returning to the wild.   Tina Condon, engineered wood products specialist based in Charlotte, trains Weyerhaeuser’s customers in the use of proprietary software to design structures with engineered wood products. Using her knowledge of the materials, she coordinated an in-kind contribution from Weyerhaeuser to help build the cage.   “My husband volunteers at the center,” Condon says. “When we heard they wanted to build a new flight cage that was significantly larger than anything they’d done before, I thought Weyerhaeuser might be able to help.”   Condon had CRC staff contact the local Weyerhaeuser distribution center. They secured a donation of treated Parallam beams and other discounted wood products for the structure.   “It was a rewarding experience,” Condon says. “Weyerhaeuser cares about the environment and the community, and it was  fulfilling to be part of the solution.”   Carolina Raptor Center Last year, the center treated more than 1,000 injured birds of prey, returning about 70 percent of those surviving the first 24 hours to the wild. Since the 80s, CRC has treated more than 17,000 raptors, and by these numbers they’re the world’s largest raptor medical center. As with any good hospital — even the human variety — the center prides itself on world-class treatment and prompt patient-recovery times. Unfortunately, as the center grew, its flight cages had become a bottleneck.   “A couple of years ago, we got 17 eagles in one year,” says Michele Miller Houck, the center’s associate executive director. “We were having a hard time getting birds through the rehabilitation program.”   With this new flight cage, CRC is the only recovery facility in the surrounding five-state region with flight cages big enough to rehabilitate the largest birds, such as red-tailed hawks and bald eagles.     Raptors treated at the center most often sustain injuries near the outskirts of urban and suburban areas, most commonly in collisions with cars and trucks.   “We tell people not to throw things — anything — out of cars,” Houck says.   Even biodegradable trash like apple cores can be dangerous, since the discards attract rodents to roadsides, where the raptors hunt them.   Houck advises people who encounter injured adult raptors to call animal control. If possible to do so safely, baby birds that have fallen from the nest should be returned to it. Most birds have a poor sense of smell, she says, and it’s a myth that mothers will reject nestlings because of human scent.   She gives the advice freely. The center educates some 35,000 visitors every year in pursuit of its mission of raptor conservation.   Clearly, the center’s new flight cage also plays a critical role in that mission. Houck and the rest of the center’s staff and volunteers look forward to officially dedicating the enclosure at a ceremony early in 2014.   “Our work with Weyerhaeuser is exactly the kind of thing we like to do with corporate partners,” Houck says. “From volunteer participation to in-kind donations and communications, we really appreciate Weyerhaeuser’s interest and support in all these different ways.”