Raptor of Love

Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN

Traveling from Hillsborough County, Rick Foley gave a presentation for the visitors at Chinsegut Nature Conservation Center on July 11, 2015. His presentation was about Birds of Prey also known as Raptors. Foley has been involved with Falconry since 2009 and after two years of training in rehabilitation, he is now certified as a rehabilitator. “My love of falconry is what inspired my rehabilitation. I became aware of the birds that were out there that needed help and I had the training and know-how to take care of them [raptors]” Foley said.

Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey. Foley hunts with a variety of raptors. Nitro, is a Harris's Hawk and Captain Jack an American Kestrel. Hunting season for Falconry is the same as hunting season set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Training the raptors for hunting takes weeks as well as building a trust between the trainer and the bird, Foley explained, however they are still considered wild. Imprinting is when a bird of prey relies on human interaction and will have a less chance of survival. There is a lot of responsibility in becoming involved in Falconry, from permits to housing (bird) guidelines.
All these birds hold what nature calls the Circle of Life. Each bird has a significant value to nature. With Foley’s knowledge, experience and his passion for the birds, he has dedicated himself to increase their survival by offering programs such as this to educate the public.

The most common danger for these birds is territory. “Birds of Prey are territorial…they have to have areas that have game,” Foley said. For instance, An eagle’s territory can exceed over 15 miles and with the increase of building zones, the less gaming area these birds have. They may or may not resort to other means of obtaining their source of food supply. These birds are also subject to many shootings (BB guns). Many can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, others are fatal.

There are laws in place to protect these birds, and when someone finds an injured hawk or wild animal, the best way to help is to call a Wildlife Sanctuary Representative or your veterinarian. You can read our article, Heron in Distress for more information on who helps injured birds and wildlife.

Hernando County is surrounded by wildlife. Weeki Wachee Preserve is over eleven thousand acres and there are many other smaller preservations throughout the County. Each are home to many birds as well as raptors such as Eagles, Red Shoulder Hawks, Osprey and Turkey Vultures.

“It’s all about interaction with the bird, I have been a bird brain, bird nerd my whole life” Foley said. Foley offers educational programs and seminars for those that are interested in learning more about Birds of Prey. Visit his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ricksraptors.

Did you know that keeping a raptor’s feather is illegal? Read more information here: http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/birds_of_prey_nca/links/raptor_possession.html

Gina Philhower is the coordinator for the Chinsegut Nature Conservation and is now working on more programs like this for Hernando County residents. “I am in the process of re-establishing programs for the center… offering weekend programs for the general public for children and families,” Philhower said.

To report an injury bird or wildlife please contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Thomas Graef, Regional Director 3900 Drane Field Road Lakeland, FL 33811 (863)648-3200 or http://nwwr.org/

For more information and programs coming up at Chinsegut Conservation Center visit their website:http://www.myfwc.com/chinsegut



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