Located in Sitka, Alaska, the Alaska Raptor Center is a 17-acre wildlife center dedicated to the rehabilitation of Alaskan and international birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, owls, and hawks that have been injured by gunshot wounds or in traffic incidents. The Alaska Raptor Center began as a private project of Sitka citizens concerned about the health of local birds of prey injured in traffic-related accidents or by gunshot wounds caused by hunters. A backyard recovery center opened in 1980 soon grew into a small volunteer network, treating injured animals in personal homes.
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As the recovery network grew, efforts were organized into an official rehabilitation facility in 1983, housed in a shed area located on the Sheldon Jackson College campus. In 1991, the Alaska Raptor Center was established as a nonprofit corporation, moving its efforts to a 17-acre location along the Indian River, on the border of the Tongass National Forest near Sitka National Historical Park.
Operations and Exhibits
Today, the Alaska Raptor Center is the largest of its kind in the state and among the largest avian rehabilitation facilities in North America. More than 2,500 worldwide members are part of the organization, working to rescue injured birds of prey from the Alaska area and beyond. As a comprehensive rehabilitation, education, and conservation facility, the Center provides medical care for injured birds, conducts educational programming for area and national students, and works with national organizations to conduct research on birds of prey, particularly focusing on bald eagles.
Around 200 birds are hosted and rehabilitated at the facility every year, with many flown in from around the world via Alaskan Airlines. The Center works with its birds on raptor life skills, including flying skills, inside its Suzanne and Walter Scott Bald Eagle Flight Training Center, a 20,000-square-foot enclosed facility inside the park. Visitors to the park may view the birds’ training within the facility from a uniquely-designed viewing area, which prevents birds from seeing or hearing visitors during their training.
While the goal for all patients is re-entry into their natural habitats in the wild, some birds that cannot be rehabilitated to survive outside captivity are distributed to zoos throughout the country. Around two dozen birds have become permanent residents at the facility, including hawks, eagles, ravens, and owls. The Center’s most notable avian resident is Volta, a bald eagle who survived a power line collision in 1992 and now serves as an ambassador for educational programming, traveling to the contiguous 48 states regularly with Center handlers.
Regular guided tours of the facility are offered May through September, with tour guides introducing visitors to the Center’s resident birds and narrating the stories of how they came to live at the Center and their rehabilitation process. Organized tours are not offered October through April, but the Center’s grounds are open on weekdays for self-guided visits.
Ongoing Programs and Education
As a 501(C)3 non-profit organization, the Center’s main funding for operations comes from memberships, donations, and attendance to visitor programs, along with funding grants and contributions from private donors. Personal donations are accepted by mail, furthering rehabilitation, conservation, and education programs, and a matching donation program is provided to match donors with contributing corporations. The Center’s main fundraising campaign is its Adopt-A-Raptor program, which allows concerned donors from around the world to become adoptive “parents” for a current Center patient. Adoption donors receive a certificate of adoption with a biography and photograph of their chosen bird, along with a one-year membership to the Center and discounts on on-site purchases. All funds from adoption donations contribute toward daily care, feeding, and medical treatment for the chosen bird.
The Adopt-A-Raptor program is also offered to classrooms as educational programming. In exchange for a classroom participating in adoption donations, curriculum materials are offered to teachers, providing lesson plans on birds of prey, their natural habitats and ecosystems, and wildlife conservation efforts. The program aims to teach students about wild animal stewardship and instill an appreciation for nature conservation from a young age, inspiring future generations to help preserve and rehabilitate wildlife. Classroom presentations are also offered, touring with the Center’s resident birds to students around the country.
In addition to Center staff, a volunteer program offers concerned citizens an opportunity to work with programming, serving in capacities ranging from office management to feeding and mew cleaning. Internship positions with the Center are also offered on a periodic basis.
An annual solstice event, the Beaks and Buccaneers Festival, serves as the Center’s main yearly fundraising event, providing a night of food, drinks, and themed entertainment.
1000 Raptor Way, Sitka, AK 99835, Phone: 907-747-8662