One of the “must see” attractions in Sitka, Alaska is the Alaska Raptor Center which provides medical treatment, rehabilitation, and relocation, where possible, for many different kinds of birds. What started as a grass-roots volunteer organization housed in someone’s backyard has grown into the top bald eagle hospital in all of Alaska and one of the state’s top tourist attractions.
During an average year, the center will provide medical care and treatment for 100-200 birds, predominantly bald eagles. The center is located on a 17-acre campus that borders the Tongass National Forest and the Indian River that runs through Sitka. This location provides access to the perfect climate for the birds that call the center home during their recovery and rehabilitation and for those who find a permanent home at the center through the Raptors-In-Residence program.
The center provides treatment for all kinds of injuries, although the most common injuries they see are the result of the negative consequences that can happen when wild birds and people coexist. Many of the birds come to the center with broken wings, other broken bones, gunshot wounds, and because they have ingested a poisonous substance. Common causes of these injuries are colliding with man-made objects like cars and power-lines, ingesting toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, on lawns or gardens, and from disposal sites, and interactions with inanimate objects like fishing line.
The goal of the center’s rehabilitation program is to enable the birds to recover so that they can be released back into the wild. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Some bird’s injuries are so severe that they would not survive if released back into the wild. Bald eagles that cannot be released may be placed in a captive breeding center in another part of the country where they are bred with other captive birds so that their babies can be released to help increase the population of bald eagles in the wild. Other birds that cannot be released back to the wild for their own safety are placed in zoos, educational centers, and other responsible habitats to help educate people about raptors as they live out the remainder of their lives. The remaining un-releasable birds continue to call the center home as part of the Raptors-in-Residence program.
In addition to providing medical care and rehabilitation for injured birds and providing a habitat for those in the Raptors-in-Residence program, the center also provides an educational program called Adopt-A-Raptor that brings education opportunities and classroom presentations to more than 15,000 school children each year.
The Alaska Raptor Center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM for general tours from May until September. Although organized tours are not available during the off-season, the center can still be visited and those wanting to visit are encouraged to call to get the center’s hours for the timeframe of their visit.
Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to see the bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls that make up the 24 Raptors-in-Residence!