Open house offers rare look at raptors

photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

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From an enormous golden eagle learning to hunt mice on its own, to a tiny wide-mouthed sparrow still in need of hand-fed formula, the Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada offers bird and nature lovers an opportunity to get a close-up glimpse of many of nature's most amazing creations.

Visitors to Nancy Laird's annual two-day open house in Washoe Valley were treated Saturday to a variety of raptors - some of nature's most skilled hunters - including kestrels, red-tailed hawks, Swainson's hawks, barn owls, a harrier hawk, great-horned owls and a golden eagle.

The event continues today.

Birds who end up in the retired registered nurse's care come to the infirmary with a variety of injuries and from a multitude of locations. Veterinarians do the examinations, diagnoses and surgeries, and an ophthalmologist treats eye problems.

Laird and her assistant Suzette Feilan rehabilitate the birds by feeding, administering medications and vitamins, and training them to hunt on their own so that they ultimately can be released back into the wild.

Many get hit by cars or are blown from their nests before they're ready to set out on their own. Others end up at WAIF under more tragic circumstances.

A three-year-old golden eagle was found with all her wing and tail feathers pulled out. She was then discarded to fend for herself which would likely have resulted in death. A red-tailed hawk came in under similar circumstances.

WAIF gives birds a second chance at life.

Cookie Kidder and her daughter Shelley Van Sickle of Carson City brought two Scouts from Pack 44, Den 1 to the open house because the boys, 9-year-old Mason Van Sickle and 8-year-old Luke Pederson are working toward their wildlife conservation badge.

Kidder said she was impressed with Laird's commitment. "I think she's doing a fabulous job. It must be really hard to do all this with just donations," she said.

Paul Jorgensen and his wife Eileen of Carson City said they were fascinated with raptors, particularly the owls.

"We're owl lovers from the Midwest where we had lots of them in our yard. We loved to hear them," Eileen Jorgensen said.

Debbie Hanson, also of Carson City, brought her adopted grandson Nick, 3, out to enjoy the birds because he has a disability known as interstitial duplication of chromosome 15.

"He likes all animals so this is therapy for him," Hanson said. "I also just lost my 20-year-old sulphur-crested cockatoo Angus, so I came out here for the therapy too."

The open house continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2920 Eagle Court in Washoe Valley.

From Carson City, take East Lake Boulevard past the 7-11 and the little post office on the left. Turn left on Pershing, then right on Eagle, then go all the way to the end where the street swings left and turns into Puma. WAIF is on the right just past that corner. Go through the gate and follow the driveway around to the back of the property.

Admission is free but donations are welcome.


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