EATON RAPIDS, Mich. — Four Barred Owls are flying around the new 120 feet long 38 feet wide and 20 feet tall flight enclosure at Wildside Rehabilitation and Education Center.
The goal of Journey's Passage, the new enclosure, is to rehabilitate raptors, birds of prey, hawks, owls, and eagles.
"We've had a lot of rehabilitators retire in the last several years. And Michigan State University closed their wildlife ward, and they did a lot of raptors and eagle rehabilitation. So there has been a need in the Mid-Michigan area for this," said the director of the Wildside Rehabilitation and Education Center, Louise Sagaert.
Typically the animals start inside the clinic area and can spend days, weeks, or even months there, depending on their injuries. When they're ready, they go into small cages where they start building muscle. And once the animals are flying successfully in the small cages, eating on their own, and are healthy, they graduate to the eagle flight enclosure.
"Their last hope before they go back to the wild. They can spend usually at least weeks; some will spend a much longer time depending on their original injury and how much time they've been in rehabilitation," said Sagaert.
So far, they've had Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and Barred Owls in the enclosure, and they have all graduated and been released back into the wild.
As to why the enclosure is important in helping the animals heal, Sagaert says it's essential for large birds to be pre-conditioned before being released back into the wild.
"While they're doing their critical rehabilitation time, they're usually just sitting based on their injury's especially the cases we have right now. So it's critical to get them back out into a large area so they can do circles around this cage and actually fly for a length of time and strengthen their wings and strengthen their muscles," said Sagaert.
As for the four Barred Owls, Sagaert says they have come from various locations, and some were hit by cars, and a few were down in people's yards. All of them have recovered and should be released in about a week and a half.
"All four of them came from the west side of the state, so the Grand Rapids area. So they will actually go back to that side of the state to be released," said Sagaert.
When the pandemic settles down, the goal is to invite the public to see Journey's Passage.
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