Raptor Center upgrades take wing

The University of Minnesota held its groundbreaking ceremony for $1.5 million in new upgrades at the Raptor Center in Falcon Heights on April 24. Board members and distinguished staff helped with the ceremony and announced the event. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)

The enclosures at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center in Falcon Heights were built into a hill in the 1980s with untreated wood. Over the summer, the facility will be renovated and upgraded with newer, more durable materials, and will be at-grade, meaning staff, volunteers and visitors will no longer need to climb what can sometimes be slippery or icy stairs to see and care for the birds. (Johanna Holub/Review)

Executive Director Juli Ponder says the current Raptor Center enclosures were not built with weather, particularly Minnesota winters, in mind. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on the rainy afternoon of April 24, and droplets fell on Ponder’s head as she explained why the enclosures needed to be upgraded to keep the birds, as well as volunteers, safe and dry during inclement weather. (Johanna Holub/Review)

Volunteer Chloe held Sam, a great horned owl, one of the many raptors that are used at the Raptor Center for education, on April 24 at the University of Minnesota. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)

The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota campus in Falcon Heights broke ground last week on $1.5 million-worth of facility upgrades that will take place over the summer.

The center, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is currently home to several “educational” birds that are trained and travel to various locations for education programs, as well as more than a hundred ill or injured birds being rehabilitated for life back in the wild.

Each year, the facility offers in-house tours to about 20,000 people, and educates some 200,000 more through events in the community. The center estimates it rehabilitates more than 900 raptors every year.

Executive Director Dr. Juli Ponder says the facility will be renovated and a new outdoor education center, as well as bird housing enclosures, will be completed by early October. The current outdoor enclosures are made from untreated wood, which degrades quickly when exposed to harsh Minnesota weather.

“The need for repair is constant,” Ponder explained. “This facility was not built to withstand Minnesota snow and ice.”

The new facility, which was funded by private donors, will stay about the same size as it is now, but will have an entirely new layout that’s built with more durable, contemporary materials and is more pleasing to the eye, Ponder said.

When completed, the public education area will also be handicap-accessible, a feature that Ponder says is long overdue.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony, noting the importance of educating children about the abundance of wildlife that could be visible in their own backyard.

For more information about the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, visit www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu.

— Johanna Holub


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