WRAL.com at the State Fair

This One's For the Birds

Posted October 20, 2007

Years ago you could go in one of the exhibit buildings at the Fair and see Beanca, the Steppe Eagle. Beanca was in the company of John Barkas, the founder of the American Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately Mr. Barkas passed away in 2001. But the dream of rehabilitating animals, mostly raptors, goes on with the continuing work of the American Wildlife Refuge here in the Triangle.

This year I saw three birds at the different times I went to the American Wildlife Refuge's booth in the Education Building: Furbee, an adorable screech owl; Buckshot, a great horned owl, and Freya, a red-tailed hawk. They were always accompanied by Steve Stone, who now heads the American Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge rescues and rehabilitates doezens of birds each year (with a primary
focus on raptors). Injured birds brought to the Refuge has a survival rate of 70-85%.

Though he's been spending a lot of time at the Fair, educating visitors about raptors, Steve still has other work to do. "I've done two rescues since the Fair started," he said. At the moment the Refuge has 18 education birds (birds that are too injured to return to the wild and are used in educational presentations like the Fair) as well as many birds that are being cared for before release into the wild.

While other nonprofits at the Fair are fundraising toward a particular goal, the American Wildlife Refuge isn't getting that fancy. "Our fundraising goal is to get funds," said Steve. Possibly more important than funds is the need for land. If the Refuge had use of more land, it could open a public facility and thus qualify for more grants. As you might expect in the booming Triangle, getting even temporary use of land is a huge challenge.

Got 10-15 acres sitting around in Wake County that you're not quite ready to develop yet? If the answer's no, there are still ways to help. I asked Steve what the most important thing people could do if they wanted to help the cause of the Refuge. His answer surprised me. "Pay attention," he said after a minute. "For example, dead snakes in the road."

Um, dead snakes in the road? "If you see a dead snake in the road, and you have a shovel handy, move it out of the road and onto the shoulder," he explained. "You might be saving a bird getting hit by a car. 90% of our rescues are for birds hit by cars." That means paying attention when you're driving, too.

There are other ways to help as well. Contributions to the Refuge are tax-deductible. And hey, do you shop at Food Lion? Register your Food Lion MVP card at Food Lion's Shop and Share Program and you can set your card to donate part of your grocery purchases to the American Wildlife Refuge. Eat some mac n' cheese, help a hawk. Sounds good to me!

You can learn more about the American Wildlife Refuge by visiting its Web site at http://americanwildliferefuge.org/. Don't miss the gallery and the schedule of upcoming appearances by the birds.


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