Raptors soar in the Okanagan

The Raptors have returned to Vernon for a five week period

  • Jul. 23, 2017 12:00 p.m.

Predators are soaring over Vernon.

The Raptors launched its five-week stay at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre recently with a raptor flight demonstration.

Aaron Deans, executive director at the centre, said The Raptors have returned to Vernon because of the overwhelming number of people who attended the events last year.

“This is one of our more exciting programs that’s all ages, and it gets you intimately close with nature and gives you that thrill of an authentic experience,” said Deans.

Last summer, the birds visited for a week in June, August, and September, and drew about 2,000 people.

The predatory birds involved in the demonstrations were hatched at The Raptors facility on Vancouver Island but are free to fly away, though they always come back for the food.

Robyn Radcliffe, general manager for The Raptors, says the birds realize life is easier with humans around.

“They have free food, free health care and a free retirement home,” she said.

Radcliffe said raptors have three things in common: amazing eyesight that is 10-20 times better than a human’s, a downward pointed beak for ripping and tearing into flesh, and powerful feet made to capture and subdue their prey.

“Raptor means to seize or take by force,” said Radcliffe.

The Raptors chose which birds to bring by assessing their ability to travel and deal with new people, and from that came the turkey vulture, American kestrel, peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, and the spectacled owl team.

“This is our special task-force for Vernon,” said Radcliffe.

The Raptor Flight demo program involves the birds flying low over the crowd and demonstrating their preying abilities.

For five weeks, people of all ages can come and see the show, and those over the age of eight can pay extra for the Raptor Close Encounter Course, which lasts an hour and allows the participants to wear a leather glove and hold the birds.

“You don’t know just how much you’ll enjoy it until you actually experience it,” said Deans.

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, and the flying demo showcases the high-speed bird diving for food.

“When you see nature behaving authentically, it’s an opportunity for us to have a glimpse into the world of wildlife,” said Deans.

The Raptors work all across Canada with wildlife management and education programs.

“We partner with the Nature Centre because our values are very similar in terms of conservation and education,” said Radcliffe.

Tuesdays in July are Family Fun Nights at the ABNC and admission will be by donation.

Tickets are available on the website for a lower cost than door prices, and the programming will be available Tuesdays to Sundays until Aug. 20.

“The raptors really love flying here,” said Deans.

For more information, go to www.abnc.ca/get-closer-to-the-raptors-at-allan-brooks/

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