Spring Activities for Kids

As the sun’s rays shine between the trees, glinting off the frost covering the bare aspen branches outside my window, I can feel the promise of spring, even as winter weather lingers. I know that soon buds on aspen branches will burst with fresh spring leaves and winter will give way to a new season! The arrival of spring is one of my very favorite times of the year. It’s a great time to get outside and explore. Longer days, warmer temperatures, new leaves and blossoms, and the return of migrating birds await you.

There are so many ways to celebrate spring, no matter your age, but these are some of my favorites!

1. Go on a hike and look for signs of animals!
In the spring, animals such squirrels and rodents are emerging from hibernation or torpor (periods of long slumber, but not true hibernation). You’ll see signs of their activity such as chewed pine cones and nibbled plant shoots.
Make a simple chart to focus your observations. Sketch what you see!
– Scat (animal poop)
– Tracks (footprints)
– Forage (chewed pinecones, nibbled branches, etc.)
– Homes (nests, dens, etc.)

Come stroll the Museum’s many nature trails and look for signs of animals such as the golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks, which are very active this time of year. Check the feeders in the wildlife viewing area for spring activity. Talk with a wildlife expert at the Museum if you have any questions about birds and mammals you’ve seen during your visit.

After watching the busy songbirds at the Museum’s feeders, get an up-close and personal view of raptors during our “Sky Hunters” program, offered for a limited run each year during spring break (March 24-31, 2018). Watch as powerful aerial predators take flight overhead in this intimate, free-flight demonstration showcasing each bird’s agility and grace. Date, time and price information can be found on our website calendar.

Families with young children will also enjoy exploring our “Who’s Home?” interactive exhibit. Watch as your little ones get creative, imagining they are snakes in the rimrock, just emerging from hibernation!

2. Start sunflower sprouts!
Sprouting seeds indoors before you plant outside helps the plant develop in a controlled environment. Or, rather than planting outside, have you ever eaten fresh microgreen sprouts? They are extremely nutritious, and, when grown in your own kitchen, very local!

By planting sunflower seeds inside, you can choose to transplant some outside where they will grow into tall sunflowers come summer, and save some for a delightful, edible treat.

Black oil sunflower seeds are my favorite. You can find quality seeds at a garden supply store, or by searching online.

1. Purchase quality seed. I use black oil sunflower seeds. Though other types will work, these are the least expensive.
2. Soak your seeds in warm water for 12 hours in a covered container. I recommend about two cups.
3. Drain and rinse.
4. Soak the seeds again in warm water for another 8-12 hours. (Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the seeds start to sprout.)
5. Once the seeds have begun to sprout, fill a clean, plastic nursery tray with moistened seed-starting potting mix nearly to the top.
6. Sow the seeds thickly across the entire tray then cover
it with another inverted nursery tray to block out the light. There is no need to cover the germinating seeds with more potting soil. Be sure there are some small holes in the top tray to allow for ventilation.
7. Water the tray from the bottom once or twice per day by setting the tray in a bigger tray of water for a few minutes.
8. As the shoots grow, they’ll push up the top tray (usually within a few days). At this point, remove the top tray to expose the growing seedlings to light.
10. Move the tray in front of a bright, sunny window.
11. Continue to regularly water by spraying shoots and soil with a spray bottle several times a day.
12. Harvest the sunflower shoots that you want to eat when they reach 4 inches high by cutting them off at soil level with sharp, clean scissors. Transplant the rest of the shoots outside!
13. Store unwashed sunflower microgreens in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. Wash them as you need them by running the shoots under cold water. They are delicious on sandwiches and salads!

By planting seeds indoors, kids get to witness every stage of the sprouting process, and then taste the results of their efforts and watch as their sunflowers grow and mature in the yard or garden.

Did you know?? At the Miller Ranch, the Millers are also getting ready to start a garden for the summer. Come ask the Millers about what they are doing to prepare their garden.
Spring is a prime time for sprouting in the great outdoors, too! Look for bud bursts and other signs of spring on the High Desert Natural History Walk at the Museum, offered daily.

3. Make a Bird Feeder
More than half of Central Oregon’s birds depart for the winter, leaving about 175 species that are hearty enough to survive the cold temperatures, snow, and scarce food. But come spring, migrant birds are returning and need to replenish after a long journey! Create this ponderosa pinecone bird feeder, and survey the local birds that come visit! Consider placing the feeder away from windows to mitigate collisions. Take it one step further and apply window stickers so birds don’t mistakenly fly into the glass!

You will need:
– Large ponderosa pine cones (found on the ground on an outside adventure!)
– Peanut butter (shortening for people with nut allergies)
– Birdseed
– String
– Butter knife
– A shallow dish
– And, of course, a place to hang your bird feeder! (a tree or bird feeder hanger work nicely)

1. Shake or lightly brush the pinecone to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off any loose scales that may break off as you create your feeder.
2. Tie string securely around the cone. Create a loop to easily hang your feeder from a tree branch.
3. Use the knife to coat the cone with a layer of peanut butter, pressing some between the rows of scales, filling in larger gaps. If the peanut butter is too thick to spread well, it can be warmed up slightly in the microwave to make it easier.
4. Once the cone is completely coated with peanut butter, roll it in the birdseed in a shallow dish, pressing lightly to keep the seed adhered to the cone. Work the seed in between the rows of scales.
5. Feeders can be hung immediately, or can be frozen for several weeks. The feeders do not need to be thawed before hanging.
6. Hang your feeder and carefully watch for visiting birds!
For bonus points, record the species you observe on eBird (www.ebird.org) – a partnership of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. There, you can see what types of birds other people have seen in your area, and share your sightings with others.

Learning about birds in your own backyard is an excellent extension of learning to complement your Museum visit. What do the birds in your backyard have in common with birds at the Museum? How are they different?

I hope you can use these activities to embrace the changing seasons! Spring is a blend of showers and sunshine, but whether sun or rain (or even snow), there’s plenty to explore to stay busy! When you’re warming up (or drying out) back indoors, continue your celebration of spring with these books:

Spring children’s books:
And then it’s spring by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stesd
Seeds, seeds, seeds! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Seeds sprout! (I like plants) by Mary Dodson Wade
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

Spring adult books:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

To Blake Little, Gay Rodeo is Personal

Blake Little, Chute Dogging
From the moment he attended his first gay rodeo in 1988, photographer Blake Little was hooked. “I was completely drawn to it and I had to be a part of it,” he stated. “I wanted to be a cowboy.” Pursuing the thrill of his own cowboy dreams through the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), Little became immersed in the spirited Western community. As a participant, Little found himself in a unique place where he could draw on his passion for photography and use his background and skills as a photographer to document the gay rodeo through his camera lens.

Little knew, of course, that the view through a camera lens can be unique, often capturing the world from a different angle than seen when simply passing by. Through his photographs, he invites us to view things as they are, while also challenging us to see them from a different perspective.

What resulted was a series of 41 stunning black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992. On exhibit at the HDM from December 15, 2017, through April 30, 2018, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, presents a glimpse into a little-known world, allowing us to explore a story with the intimacy of an insider’s point of view. In addition to representing Little’s own experience on the gay rodeo circuit, the exhibition also celebrates the lives of many of its participants during those years, capturing the spirit and camaraderie of a vibrant community. The collection elegantly combines the action of roping and riding, while also presenting a portrait of the courageous cowboys and cowgirls behind the scenes.

The exhibition, Little explained, memorializes his own “unforgettable experiences in gay rodeo,” and honors “the cowboys who competed with me and left a huge mark on my life.” Competitors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet the relationships they formed became some of the most important in their lives. The gay rodeo community offered the LGBT cowboys and cowgirls a place where they could be themselves and embrace their true identities. Despite the competitive nature of rodeo, participants were supportive of one another. “For me that was the most memorable and rewarding thing about rodeo,” Little stated.
Some of the rodeo participants pictured in Little’s photographs still ride, but many have retired and some have passed away.
Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is curated by Johanna Blume, assistant curator of Western art at the Eiteljorg Museum, and offered through the courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN.

This exhibit is a program of ExhibitsUSA and The National Endowment for the Arts. 
Made Possible by Cascade Arts & Entertainment, Oregon Cultural Trust and Zolo Media. This project has been funded in part by the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. With support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

Blake Little, Chute Dogging, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989; archival pigment
printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 13.25 x 20 inches; Loan courtesy
of Blake Little.

Hope

Storytelling is a big part of what we do at the Museum. Narratives can be a powerful tool for teaching and learning, and for fulfilling our mission of connecting audiences to the High Desert region. All of the objects, exhibits, and staff at the museum have stories to tell, and so do each of our animals. One of the things we look for when we bring an animal to the museum is a good story, one that will spark a connection with our visitors.

Late last summer a new resident arrived at the Museum, one with a particularly dramatic and colorful past that paints a vivid picture of the recovery of her species from near extinction, and of the challenges they face in new habitats today. She is a peregrine falcon named “Hope,” one of a clutch of four hatched by wild parents high upon a building in Tacoma, Washington.

In the early 1970s peregrine falcons were among the first animals added to the Endangered Species Act, their populations ravaged by the effects of the organophosphate pesticide DDT. Thankfully they are also one of the ESA’s most resounding success stories, soaring back from near extinction and quickly recolonizing habitats across the continent, including in major cities where tall buildings simulate the cliffs they require for nesting, and where urban pigeon and starling populations provide an abundant food source. Once extremely rare, today peregrine falcons are part of the daily lives of people in major cities throughout the country, and Hope and her siblings enjoyed celebrity status for a short time in Tacoma. However, the attention urban raptors receive also means that human onlookers often get a front row seat to the harsh realities of their natural history.

Like most raptor species, peregrine populations endure high mortality rates in the first year of life. At least 60 percent of peregrine falcons will not make it to age 2. Big cities can be good habitat for falcons, but they are also dangerous places for learning to fly. Hope and one of her brothers both fell from the nest to city streets below, but were “re-nested,” or returned to the high ledge by humans for their parents to continue care. Eventually, two of her brothers, including the one that fell, successfully fledged. However, a third died after flying into a window, and Hope eventually fell a second time. The injury to her wing was too severe for her to make it as a wild falcon.

The High Desert Museum is a refuge for many native animals that would not survive in the wild, serving as both steward and custodian of animals that by law belong the people of Oregon and the United States. Non-releasable animals come here from rehab facilities across the west for lifelong care, and are made accessible to the community through dynamic educational programs that emphasize wildlife ecology and conservation in our region. Each individual animal is evaluated carefully based on its preferences, history, and physical limitations for what programs it wants to participate in, and is trained accordingly not only for public presentation, but also for daily exercise and enrichment. The goal in all cases is to give these animals the best quality of life possible.

Hope has proven to be a very special bird. After a few short months of careful handling and daily exercise, not only has she learned to sit on the glove for daily bird of prey talks, but she has very quickly progressed through an intensive training, physical therapy, and exercise regime, and has once again learned to fly on a limited basis with her injured wing, and she absolutely loves doing it! Flying sessions have become a highlight of every day for both Hope and the wildlife staff.

Because of her story, Hope will be especially useful for connecting audiences to the adaptability of peregrine falcons and their increasing use of urban environments, and also to the additional challenges they face in those habitats. This winter and spring you will be able to come to our daily Bird of Prey talks, and next summer she will debut in our Raptors of the Desert Sky free-flight program where she will educate audiences about the recovery of her species throughout the High Desert region and beyond.

Treading Lightly on Nature

Responsible recreation benefits us all.

Like many people who are drawn to live in the West, I’m happiest when I’m out in nature.

Some of the best, most inspiring moments of my life have happened while running, hiking or horseback riding on trails. Here in Central Oregon, we are blessed with world-class recreation opportunities just outside our front doors. Outdoor recreation supports our health and wellbeing and brings economic benefits to the local community. I would rather see a packed trailhead than a packed shopping mall on a Saturday, as it indicates that folks are out experiencing and forging personal connections with nature — and will, hopefully, care more about it as a result.

But as Lauri Turner and Brock McCormick of the U.S. Forest Service recently discussed during one of our thought-provoking Natural History Pubs, while making humans healthier, recreation can harm wildlife and our public lands. Land managers must therefore balance their goals for recreation, habitat restoration and wildlife conservation. Most outdoor recreationists appreciate and respect the trails and the habitats they lead us through, but mounting issues include people dumping trash, leaving poop unburied, and forging new, unofficial trails. Some people also approach wildlife far more closely than animals can tolerate. While slightly less than 200 feet is felt to be an acceptable distance by recreationists, about 500 feet is the actual flight distance of mule deer, bison and pronghorn. Even those of us who set out with the best leave-no-trace intentions have unseen impacts on the many species who call the forest or desert home. We may contribute to soil compaction and erosion, tree-root damage, or cause deer to flee long before we spot them.

The decisions we make on the trail — and about which trails we use, and when — impact numerous species, from salamanders to elk. Wildlife responds best to predictable disturbances. For example, if trails get busy at certain times of day, they may learn to avoid, or at least expect, that disturbance, only returning during quieter times. If you roam far off-trail in the early morning and meet a deer, it’s likely to be startled and make a hasty retreat. Body fat that the animal had stored for winter survival may end up being used for running, instead.

No-impact outdoor recreation doesn’t really exist, but low-impact recreation can! What can we do, as a community, to reduce our impact while continuing to enjoy our trails? A few actions to consider include:
• Keep to designated trails. We have enough official trails (not including user-created, BLM, Bend Parks and Recreation or State Lands) in the Deschutes National Forest for a person to hike 38 miles per weekend, May through September, without needing to repeat a single inch of trail.
• Respect seasonal restrictions in sensitive habitats.
• Give wildlife space. This is especially important when nesting or mating is occurring, and during the winter. Invest in a pair of binoculars, rather than getting too close.
• Try to keep your dog on a leash or under control. This is especially important during the winter and spring.
• Clear up your trash. Follow the Leave No Trace program, including Seven Simple Principles.
• Share responsible recreation tips with friends and family.

Please see the U.S. Forest Service’s website for further information about how we can reduce our impact on the flora and fauna that make this region so beautiful.

Turn Off the Lights for a Brighter Future

The Museum’s staff is thrilled to have recently become a partner of Lights Out Bend, a volunteer-operated education and advocacy program that seeks to highlight the issue of light pollution and inspire the community to reduce light pollution. In becoming partners, we join fellow local organizations keen to make a difference. This includes the Deschutes Public Library, East Cascades Audubon Society and Ruffwear.

What is light pollution and why should we care? Simply put, light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light, and human activities are lighting our night sky like never before. You’ve probably seen many businesses and homes leaving lights on at night. While this may seem harmless, it has major implications for native wildlife species. They evolved with predictable phases of light and dark, and many species are guided by celestial sources of light—such as the moon, stars and planets. Artificial lights interfere with these natural rhythms and behaviors. Bats, birds, moths and other species may suffer reduced hunting success, collisions with windows, disorientation and numerous other problems. Light pollution puts lives on the line.

Luckily, the solution comes with a simple flick of a switch! By turning off unnecessary lights, using motion sensor lights or lower intensity bulbs or installing fixtures that don’t direct light up into the night sky, we can improve the lives of birds and animals with whom we share the High Desert. We can also close our curtains at night to reduce the amount of light that can escape to the outside environment. While these actions are meaningful year round, they are particularly important during spring and fall migratory seasons.

Protecting the starry night sky saves wildlife. We also benefit from energy savings and a better view of the stars. It may even improve our health, as electric lights are thought to influence our own biological clocks. The Museum’s staff is committed to switching off all unnecessary lights at night. We hope you’ll join us.

For more information about this issue and what actions you can take to help, visit Lights Out Bend or the International Dark Sky website.

Telling Native American Stories Through Art

Ben Pease has been awarded the Jury’s Choice Award at the High Desert Museum’s Art in the West exhibition for his 2017 work “Honor and Respect Come to Thee”. It was among 226 pieces submitted in response to a nationwide call to artists for the Museum’s annual juried art exhibition and silent auction.

Ben is a young Native American artist whose work is deeply steeped in identity. Born on the Crow Indian Reservation in 1989, he has deep roots in both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations in southeastern Montana. While Ben has been making waves in the art world for several years now, he is currently working on his undergraduate degree at Montana State University with a major in Art and a minor in Native American Studies. Ben considers himself a storyteller by vocation, and feels strongly that he has a responsibility to tell the stories of Native people.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” is a mixed-media painting that shows a digitally manipulated historical photograph of a mounted Native American warrior superimposed on a rich and layered background composed of washes of acrylic paint, glass beads, antique ledger papers, an antique mail envelope and a US telegraph ticket. The dense but transparent surfaces of his paintings are somewhat hazy, and we get the sense that we are viewing an image from memory through the fog of time. His paintings are accumulations of meaningful materials and processes, where successive layers of later marks obscure earlier ones. The ledger pages remind us that we need to account for the past, and the acrylic paint almost becomes a kind of whitewash, which reminds us of our desire to avoid dealing with difficult and unpleasant aspects of our national history.

Composed as they are of historical images that are depicted using a combination of traditional painting techniques and modern, digital processes, Ben’s paintings elegantly express the tension between the traditional and the modern. His works are almost a tug-of-war between the past and the present, and his imagery is a rich stew of culturally-transmitted memory and history seasoned with the awareness of what it means to live in America as a Native person today.

What draws me to Ben’s work is his willingness to make art that can speak to difficult and painful aspects of the past while at the same time celebrating the positive elements of Native identity today. His work is a tribute to people who have been tested by great adversity, but have retained a strong sense of who they are and where they come from.

“Honor and Respect Come to Thee” and the other works in Art in the West are on view in the Brooks Gallery through August 26. The silent auction culminates at the High Desert Museum’s gala, the High Desert Rendzvous, that evening.

Photo: Honor and Respect Come to Thee by Ben Pease (Jury’s Choice Award)

6 Ways to Keep Pets Safe in Summer

Here at the High Desert Museum, we’re taking steps to keep the wildlife in our care healthy and safe during this summer’s high temperatures, like providing fruit pops to the porcupines and spritzing the raptors with water. The otters? They’re content swimming and sunbathing. Caring for them in this extreme heat made us think of you and your beloved pets. We thought we’d share some simple things you can do to keep your pets safe at home and as you travel this summer.

1. Offer plenty of cool, fresh drinking water to keep your pet hydrated.

2. Dogs transpire through their foot pads, so offering cool water for them to stand in is an excellent and safe method to cool them off. During backyard play, sprinklers and kiddie pools are a fun and effective method of keeping cool while getting in some exercise.

3. Brushing your pets regularly can help keep them cool by removing excess fur. Avoid shaving or trimming the fur to short when grooming, as this can lead to sunburn. Pro tip: wet a cloth with cool water and pet your dog or cat with it. This aids in removing shed fur, as well as cooling.

4. Frozen treats are a great way to keep your pets cool! To help with hydration, freeze water with a bit of fruit for flavoring. (Avoid grapes and raisins, as these can be extremely toxic to animals.) Quick recipe: fill a yogurt cup or similar sized container with water, then stir in a tablespoon of plain applesauce (no sugar or cinnamon added). Pop in the freezer until solid.

5. When your pets are inside, ensure that the temperature stays cool by leaving the AC on. If you do not have AC, circulate the air with fans. Elevating their beds can also help by allowing air to flow underneath them.

6. Most importantly, never leave your pet in your car, and always allow them reprieve from direct sun. Fifteen minutes in 90 degree heat is enough to cause heat stroke in your pet. Always offer shade and/or the ability to come inside.

Growing Up Otter

When the otter pup arrived at the Museum, he was a 6-week-old wiggly bundle of energy that tripped over his own feet when he followed after me. When he wasn’t running around and playing with his stash of toys, he was either napping or eating. With neither of us being experienced at bottle feeding, mealtime tended to result in a huge mess.

Cleaning up after these feedings started out as warm, shallow baths in the sink and a thorough towel drying afterwards to make sure he was warm and dry. As he became comfortable with the sound of the running faucet, the otter pup started sticking his face underwater and blowing bubbles, learning how to close his nose and small ears while in water.

As he grew, so did his love of water, and bath time moved from the sink to a tub. He started using his webbed toes and muscular tail to turn and spin. He went from holding his breath for barely a minute to holding it for three minutes, still a ways off from the nearly six minutes adult river otters can hold their breath.

Though otter pups in the wild are taught to swim by mom around 8 weeks of age, this slower lead up to swimming continued until our pup shed his thinner baby fur and grew in his denser and warmer adult fur around 11 weeks of age. An adult fur coat has 350,000 hairs per square inch and is made up of two layers: guard hairs and under fur. Their outer coat of water repellent guard hair helps prevent the insulating under fur from getting wet, which helps keep their bodies warm while they hunt for aquatic prey such as fish and amphibians all year round.

Since mastering a full bathtub of water, the otter has begun swimming in a large stock tank that allows him to practice swimming, diving, and catching small, live trout with his sharp claws and teeth. He’s also begun exploring the shallows in the museum’s stream habitat where he tosses around pebbles and chases after bugs.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page to follow along as the otter grows!

Part 3: Bringing Phillip Home

A few years ago, High Desert Museum staff learned from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Blue Mountain Wildlife Center in Pendleton, Oregon, had several non-releasable eagles.

One of the birds was a sub-adult male golden eagle that appeared to have been struck by a car. It also had serious levels of lead poisoning. Lead levels in raptor blood more than 65 micrograms are considered “clinical poisoning”. This eagle had levels more than 100, enough to be lethal.

Lynn Tompkins, the executive director of Blue Mountain Wildlife, successfully chelated the eagle (a process where lead is chemically removed from the bloodstream) and lowered the blood lead levels to under 5 micrograms per deciliter. She then flight conditioned the eagle and, after a few weeks, considered it strong enough to be released.

Unfortunately, six weeks after its release, the eagle was recovered starving, likely the result of a permanent wing injury and possible continuing neurological effects from lead poisoning that made it unable to hunt successfully.

This bird was now considered ”non-releasable,” yet still had some flight capability and looked perfect to the unsuspecting eye. Knowing this opportunity may not come around again for years, Museum staff completed the necessary transfer permits and made arrangements to travel to Pendleton.

Upon arriving at Blue Mountain Wildlife, staff watched the male golden eagle fly swiftly in the large chamber. While he looked strong, they saw a slight hitch in his left shoulder, which is what made him unable to capture prey following his initial release. He would be perfect for the education programs at the High Desert Museum, and (hopefully) be a candidate for the Museum’s Raptors of the Desert Sky and Sky Hunters free-flight programs.

Almost three years later, Phillip is one of the most important birds at the Museum. Phillip ties the research work the Museum has done into lead poisoning directly to the Museum’s education programs. He is a living example of how lead poisoning affects raptors and though he displays ongoing signs of neurological damage, he has a even temperament while being handled.

It took about a year of training before Nelson was comfortable having Phillip participate in the public education and free flight programs. The trainers combined traditional falconry training with positive reinforcement (food) and increasing exposure to people to bring Phillip’s comfort level with the public to the point where he participates in three-to-four programs a week, primarily educating visitors about lead poisoning in the wild.

Fun Facts about Phillip

  • He weights about 8 pounds.
  • His wingspan is 6 feet plus.
  • His favorite food is rats.
  • He can still fly, but is limited to 100-150 yards at a time because of a damaged wing.
  • He is well mannered and allows people to get near so they can see up close this magnificent bird.

 

Part 2: Searching for the Perfect Golden Eagles

Finding the right raptors for the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center is one of the most challenging aspects of managing the High Desert Museum’s wildlife education program.

One priority for the limited space at the Museum is conserving species of special concern, species that depend on public support for their survival. In many ways, the golden eagle is the epitome of this strategy. It is an apex predator of the High Desert and its survival is essential to sustaining a healthy ecosystem well into the future.

But there are many things to consider when assessing a new bird of prey for the Museum. First of all, these birds are not captives; they are wild raptors that have been deemed non-releasable due to severe injury or poisoning. As such, a facility must have highly-trained staff that understand the wild raptors and have the skills to interact with them and manage their health and safety.

Many non-releasable eagles have wing amputations due to car strikes or electrocution. At the Birds of Prey Center, the strategy is to acquire birds that appear normal as opposed to birds with conspicuous injuries. Wildlife curators feel strongly that exhibiting intact, vibrant individuals helps visitors connect to the majesty and beauty of species in the wild as opposed to the pity and sadness that often accompanies seeing a conspicuous amputee. It is a hard choice to pass on birds that need homes, but it is important to keep focused on the mission at hand – to educate visitors about High Desert wildlife.

The ideal candidate is a golden eagle that has experienced independence in the wild, having learned survival skills and is able to hunt, but has not developed an extreme resentment of humans due to the rehabilitation process.

Think about it from the raptor’s point of view. It is injured or poisoned as a result of human activity; it is captured, restricted, and subjected to repeated and extensive medical treatments. If it survives, the golden eagle, a very intelligent animal with a strong memory, often remembers the involvement of humans and can harbor deep resentment, but hopefully not too much because a rehabilitated golden eagle suitable for an education program must eventually bond with its trainers in its new home if it is to be successfully integrated into the facility.

This is often possible because wild golden eagles with hunting experience, even if injured or recovering from poisoning, bond more quickly with a trainer and learn faster given food motivations, creating an opportunity to truly spotlight the behaviors one would see in the wild.

At the High Desert Museum, golden eagles are flown and trained every day, including feeding from the glove. However, if they chose not to fly or train, food is never withheld.

The High Desert Museum currently has three golden eagles in residence. Phillip is an education raptor, especially telling the story of lead poisoning in the wild; Nicholas is on exhibit; and Walter is currently being trained for education talks and free flying. They can be viewed at the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center.