Sullivan, an adult male Golden Eagle, is the newest “Education Ambassador” at the California Raptor Center. In February 2012, good samaritans found him on the ground in Chular, California, very thin and unable to fly. They took him to the Monterey County SPCA, who transferred him to us. Our veterinarians' examination revealed such a badly broken left wing that his wingtip required amputation. This also meant he could not be returned to the wild, as he would never fly again.
After his surgery at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, Sullivan was returned to the California Raptor Center (CRC) for rehabilitation. The goal was to determine if he could live without stress in a cage, in the constant presence of humans.
Sullivan quickly settled into his new home, so in May 2012, Bret Stedman, Manager of CRC, suggested that he might make a good candidate for becoming an “education bird—helping to teach others about raptors and our environment. Under Bret's guidance, volunteer Brenton Pierce took on the job of training Sullivan to work with a handler in CRC's public presentations.
In the training process, a non-releasable raptor is fitted with anklets and jesses, to which a leash is attached. This offers some control over the bird's actions while an experienced handler teaches, through patient daily sessions, the bird to accept the company of a human partner. Eventually education birds must also be able to remain calm in front of a crowd, and some are further trained to accept traveling in a crate for presentations in CRC's programs at schools and other community groups. The process can take time, particularly with a bird as powerful as a golden eagle.
Sullivan progressed well, and after a month or so was successfully introduced to an audience of volunteers. Not long afterward, he made his public debut before an enthralled young lad, his parents, and young friends, who were enjoying his birthday celebration at the Center.
In January 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service accepted Sullivan as a permanent Education Ambassador for the Raptor Center. Sullivan is not yet on open display, but whenever he is brought out for public view, he draws an appreciative crowd!
Look for Sullivan at our upcoming Open House on May 4, 2013!
About the California Raptor Center (CRC): The CRC is an educational and research facility dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned birds of prey. Each year, the CRC takes in more than 300 to 400 sick, injured, and orphaned raptors each year, successfully returning about 60 percent to the wild. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine supports the medical needs of these birds and offers a broad spectrum of care, from advanced imaging capabilities to surgical expertise. The museum and permanent collection of living, non-releasable raptors are open to public view on weekdays and Saturdays. For more info: www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/calraptor