Raptor program spreads wings

Photo: Erik Stauber, second from left, with Raptor Club members.  (Photo by Becky Phillips)

It was as a child in Germany that Erik Stauber first began rehabilitating injured wild birds. People knew they could bring him wounded crows or jackdaws and the creatures would be as safe in his hands as in any. Today, as professor of zoological veterinary medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Stauber stands behind a successful quarter-century raptor rehabilitation program at WSU that is poised for expansion.

The program began in 1979 when a veterinary student suggested to then-Dean Leo Bustad that the school start a service for treating injured raptors (hawks, owls, eagles). It steadily developed under Stauber’s leadership into an avian medicine section for senior veterinary students. By the early 1980s, the program expanded to include a raptor rehabilitation program.

Club takes the lead
Along the way, there were some raptors that could not be returned to the wild due to the extent of their injuries. Rather than “putting them down,” Stauber thought they would be valuable as part of a public education program for schools and events.
Students interested in these presentations went on to form the Raptor Club in 1985. It includes members from all over the Pullman campus as well as volunteers from the community. The club coordinates public education programs and finances feeding and maintenance of the birds.

Raptor Club members also built some of the original flight cages necessary for rehabilitation. But, over time, the pens deteriorated and are no longer in compliance with standards of animal care. They are being condemned. 

Phase 1 this fall
In 2001, when Stauber decided to step back a little and pursue research interests, he invited Nickol Finch, clinical instructor in zoological medicine, to take over the day-to-day operations of the avian/exotic ward in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Now Finch and Stauber have spearheaded an effort to refurbish an old Carver Farm poultry building to provide new flight cages for the raptor rehabilitation program.

In a two-phase project scheduled to begin later this fall, Phase 1 will address the most critical space needs through construction of eight individual mews and flights, according to Mike Malcolm, director of Administrative Services, CVM. A mew is a small, sheltered roosting space and is connected to a larger flight area.

“The barn is well suited to be renovated,” said Malcolm. “The birds will be able to fly and get exercise. Parts of the roof will be opened for natural lighting.”

In the future, as funds become available, Phase 2 will entail replacing the aged siding and remodeling the building for office space, a work/prep area and a small clinic to examine and treat the birds. 

Various donors support effort:

$100,000: raised for Phase I of the raptor project
$250,000: total project cost estimate
$11,000: Raptor Club donation from car washes, auctions, bake sales
$31,000: earnings on CVM raptor endowment funds
$35,000: university minor capital improvement funds through Office of the Campus Veterinarian
$23,000: CVM instructional support account

Raptor program donations may be made to: WSU Foundation-College of Veterinary Medicine Raptor Rehabilitation Program. Contact: Lynne Haley, 335-5021 or lhaley@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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