April 04, 2020

Organization to help birds of prey needs help itself

OTTER CREEK — An organization which captured the imagination of many for its mission of restoring flight to injured birds of prey now is in need of rehabilitation itself.

Pat McAlpine, a volunteer director for the non-profit Raptor Recovery Center, said recently that disorganization and the need for fresh enthusiasm and talent had led to the decision to cease operation of the center.

“We found we were not doing things in an organized fashion this summer,” McAlpine said. The departure last December of the center’s founder, park ranger Roger Blain, “left a big hole,” she said.

“Roger was the catalyst. A lot of the things that had to be done he did himself. Many board members left after Roger left,” McAlpine said.

Blain, who now works at Sequoia National Park, founded the Raptor Recovery Center almost two years ago. A law enforcement officer at Acadia National Park, Blain devoted his off-duty hours to his passion — rehabilitating raptors for their eventual return to the wild.

His work and that of the center, the only one of its kind in the state, were featured last spring on a rebroadcast of the documentary “Return to the Wild,” shown on Maine public television.

Wild kestrels, owls, an osprey and an immature bald eagle were among the many birds Blain helped to restore to health and to their natural habitat.

Community support enabled Blain and others to eventually construct an enclosure for the recovering birds on property behind Blain’s house in Otter Creek. That house and property are now for sale.

“We would need at least $10,000 to buy the property where the center is now,” McAlpine said. “But someone may come in and buy the house and the land behind it and then we could lose the site entirely.”

The center’s board of directors, down to four members, has not yet made the decision to raise funds to purchase the property or other land elsewhere. Donations of land for a center are being pursued.

The recent move of longtime member Michael Wilson, the center’s remaining licensed bird handler, to Everglades National Park also left the board without the necessary skills to continue operation.

The board is hoping for community support and interest. People are needed who could obtain a wildlife rehabilitation license through courses with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Fresh faces are also needed on the board,” McAlpine said. “It would be nice to find someone who knows about running a non-profit organization who could serve on the board.

McAlpine said important decisions face what she hopes will be an expanded and enthusiastic board this spring. Those interested should call McAlpine at 288-2312.

“All of us on the board are fairly new to the community,” she continued, “and we don’t know whose door to knock on. We need movers and shakers on the board.”

McAlpine, still influenced by Blain’s enthusiasm and dreams for an expanded raptor rehabilitation and educational center, described a recent visit she made to such a center in Vermont.

“They had outdoor enclosures, indoor enclosures. It was amazing. The director said it took years for them to get to that level. It would be wonderful for us to get to that stage,” she said.

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