Birds of prey shown for geography week

By Rebecca Bahr

Passing through airport security with a suitcase full of frozen rats often proves to be the most challenging part of conservationist Walter Crawford’s career.

Crawford and his staff spend months traveling the country with a dozen birds of prey-eagles, falcons, owls and hawks who feed on rats and other small rodents.

Raptor Rehabilitation and Propogation Project of Eureka, MO., is a nationally acclaimed program designed to educate people about conservation. Project director Crawford and his staff brought their message to 2.3 million people last year.

The group visited with students, families, and professors in Davis Hall early Tuesday afternoon as part of an educational program for National Geography Awareness Week.

The birds were released to soar above the crowd gathered in Terwilliger Auditorium during the afternoon show. The show explained the history of birds of prey, problems they face today and ways to protect them.

“The biggest problem wildlife faces is collisions with manmade objects,” Crawford said.

Of the 400 million kilograms of insecticide to be sprayed this year, only one tenth of that will reach the species that it was intended to kill, he said. The insecticide has deadly affects on birds of prey as well as other animals and goes into the water system, the Earth’s most precious commodity, Crawford said.

Birds of prey are federally and state protected from harm. Law prohibits even the collecting of feathers off the ground from raptors – hawks, eagles, owls and falcons, Crawford said.

The captive birds kept at the Raptor rehabilitation site are all genetically defected or handicapped by external forces. Volunteers spend hours rehabilitating the birds so they can be released back into the wild.