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(Lander, Wyo.) - Wind River Raptors is a newly formed 501 c3 organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating birds of prey. Nathan Barnes, founder and Executive Director, has been involved with raptors since 2009 and has been working over the past three years to establish Wind River Raptors in Lander.
"I enjoy watching and working with raptors," Nathan told County 10. "They are amazing, powerful animals who demand respect and attention. When we get a bird that we can work with and get back into the landscape, it is a great feeling of accomplishment."
While studying and researching falconry Nathan learned that 85-90% of all raptors die within their first year of life. When he caught Artimus, his Red-tailed hawk, she was infested with lice and mites. He took her in on his falconry license, started the training process, and have since become very successful hunting partners. Without the proper training though, Nathan would have had to travel 200 miles to the nearest Raptor Recovery Center. "It was in this moment that I realized I needed to do something locally to help injured birds," Nathan said.
Video: h/t Nate Schucker with Pushroot Films
In 2014 the Federal Fish and Wildlife Migratory Bird Treaty Act 50 CFR 21.31 was enacted by the federal government making it more complex to acquire a raptor rehabilitation license. Nathan notes after this law was passed he saw 80% of bird recovery facilities in Wyoming shut down. Teton Raptor Center in Wilson and Iron Side in Cody were the only two facilities in Wyoming that remained open where injured or in-need birds of prey could go to find proper care so they could be released back into the wild, or have a permanent home.
"I've always felt compelled to care for the injured, ill and orphaned birds," Nathan said. "And after my experience with Artimus, I quickly realized that I had the footprint on the Otto ranch near Sinks Canyon to establish a raptor center which would meet all of the federal requirements." Over the past five year's Nathan has helped caretake the Otto ranch. "The paperwork alone took three years to complete, but as of February 26, 2016 Wind River Raptors was officially founded as a 501 c3."
Nathan holds Artimus, a Red-tailed Hawk, inside the Raptor Recovery Center. To his left is one of several muses.
The newest member to join Wind River Raptors, a Gyr/Peregrine falcon, waiting to be named by a sponsor.
Wind River Raptors currently houses two educational birds, Artimus, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Gyr/Peregrine falcon who is waiting to be named by a sponsor. "We're in the process of raising funds to finish building our facilities for permanent and temporary housing, and to pay for feeding and care of the birds that come into our care," said Nathan. Wind River Raptors hopes to be able to house 60 rehab birds and 9 educational birds by May 2017.
The non-profit is a three-pronged organization which includes Rehabilitation, Education and Conservation. "The end goal is always to be able to release the birds back into the wild," explained Nathan. "We always hope that's possible, but if it's not we can use those birds for educational purposes."
Nathan provides educational services regarding birds of prey to individuals, school groups, and organizations. "Taking our educational ambassadors into the schools for educational programs and seeing the amazement and wonder in the children is so rewarding," he explained. "The kids ask questions and marvel at the beauty and power of these birds. That makes all the years of training and paperwork worthwhile."
Nathan shows off Artimus to one of the elementary schools in Lander
"I can't imagine doing anything else," said Nathan. "And being able to house this facility right here in Lander is truly special. The community of Fremont County and Wyoming as a whole is one of caring and support. We can't wait to start welcoming in birds."
Feature photo and above photo: Nathan holds Artimus / h/t Marc Mayer
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