When you arrive at the Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI) in Antigo, you might hear the cry of an eagle, the clicking of a frightened owl’s beak or the cackle of the geese. “We have birds that are injured in some way or orphaned – all native species – and the way they get to us is people find them, not the DNR and not Fish and Wildlife,” explains Marge Gibson, the founder and director of REGI.
The birds at the Raptor Education Group may have been orphaned, hit by a car, tangled in fishing line, attacked by an animal or poisoned by toxins in the environment. As soon as the birds arrive on site, they are given a physical exam by the REGI staff. The birds are weighed. The staff takes blood samples to check for lead, and the birds are x-rayed to see if there is an internal foreign object causing their distress. Then the birds have the opportunity to heal.
The Raptor Education Group is dedicated to wildlife education and raising the public’s awareness of how they can care for wildlife in their everyday life. “They [the public] are someone who can help a species by not taking down that dead tree, by not using pesticides, not using rodent poisonings. If you’re a hunter, changing your bullets to copper as opposed to lead. There’s many things that we can correct just by not doing or becoming more aware,” Gibson explains.
In order to ensure the injured and orphaned eagles and owls don’t imprint on humans, REGI employs foster parents to care for them. The foster parents are birds that cannot be released due to their own injuries. They teach the young birds what their parents would have taught them in the wild. As the young birds mature, they are moved from a smaller area into a flight enclosure where they can spread their wings and learn to fly.
Once a bird is healed and ready to be released, Marge Gibson and her staff take the bird back to its home environment and it set free.