Hidden on the southern slopes of Spencer’s Butte amidst knurly trees moist with draping gray-green moss, the Cascades Raptor Center looks like it’s located straight out of a set from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. You know that scene where Luke, Leia & Han Solo roam through the dense forests of Endor to escape the dark side’s forces – like that. I almost expected a fuzzy like Ewok to jump out from the lurking brush. Yet alas only equally as creepy squawks emerged from the trees as we walked up the steep driveway from the over-flow parking lot below. If I wasn’t knowingly entering a bird sanctuary I think I would have been a little frightened by the wild sounds emerging from the trees.
Located just south of Eugene, Ore. on Fox Hollow Road, the Cascades Raptor Center is a nature center and wildlife hospital. Devoted to helping and healing wild, native birds and educating the public, the center hosts 60 non-releasable birds for viewing. From an energetic red-tailed hawk, who starred me down through its wooden cage to a shy, pure-white snow owl and stoic bald eagles, the Cascades Raptor Center creates an engaging and educational exhibit for all-ages.
Holding special permits for educational purposes, the raptors on display are kept in large outside lattice enclosures that camouflage into the natural surroundings. Initially entering the facility I didn’t even see half of structures, they blended so well into the winter hill side.
Using a cultural pass from the Eugene library, good for up-to $25 in admission cost, my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and I wandered through the center for free, gazing on the beautiful birds. I can’t say my nephew paid any real attention to the birds – he’s only 4.5 months old, many of the birds bigger than him – but the informational placards accompanying the animals brought the bird’s stories to life even for us.
Like Puck, an adorable American Kestrel who when still young enough to be begging for food landed on a boy’s head at a baseball game. The bird when taken to a rehabilitation center was deemed a human imprint – they have been physiology influenced by human behavior during phase-sensitive learning, likely from direct interaction. Puck due to this negative human contact could no longer function securely in the wild.
Walking along the dirt trails between structures, each of the birds had a story – unique as their own feathers but inevitably tied back to the damaging effects of humans on their habitat and learning.
But at the Cascades Raptor Center, they are trying to prevent this from happening further. Through their educational programs, rehabilitation center, community outreach and of course public tours of the sanctuary, the center is educating and exposing the public one very cute raptor at a time.
Cascades Raptor Center:
32275 Fox Hollow Road, Eugene, OR 97405 – (541) 485-1320
Winter (November – March), Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.
Summer (April – October), Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Adults $7, Teens/Seniors $6, Children under 12 $4
*This was a Eugene Bucket List item!
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