Of raptors, rats and roadkill

  • NAILED: "Spike," a bald eagle, ingested a nail, likely along with some meat he swiped from a post. He spent three weeks recovering from surgery at the Northern Rockies Raptor Center, before being released in his home state of Alaska, nail-free.

    X-ray courtesy Joanne Luebbert, Alaska Raptor Center
  At the Northern Rockies Raptor Center in northwestern Montana, Ken Wolff has been nursing injured birds back to health for 12 years. But this August his nonprofit operation hit a small snag. Five hundred pounds of frozen rodents, which Wolff uses to feed birds of prey, failed to arrive at the Missoula airport. He spent most of a day on the phone trying to track his rats, which showed up two days later.

"Rats and I arrive at the airport about the same time," Wolff writes in the center's journal, Raptor Room News: A Non-Scientific Journal of Goings-On. "One box is ripped open and dead rats litter the freight room at Delta. At 0315 I am home, stuffing over 1000 rats into freezers. Truly a sick world ..."

Wolff, a former Marine and hunting guide, started to help birds in 1983, after he found a bullet-riddled but still-living great horned owl. He trained himself by reading books and literature from recovery centers in the East and Midwest and now he, his wife, Jody, and a network of veterinarians and volunteers treat 500 birds a year. Most of the center's patients come from upper Montana, and many are young bald and golden eagles hit by vehicles while feasting on roadkill.

Visitors aren't allowed at the center, but Wolff keeps his nationwide supporters up to date with the thrice-yearly News. The journal also covers bits of Wolff's Montana life, including visits from black bears and displays of the northern lights.

You can get your talons on the News for a $20 donation to Wolff's Grounded Eagle Foundation, 278 Kraft Creek Road, Condon, MT 59826-8801 (406/754-2880).
High Country News Classifieds