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Birds of Prey visit Valley View

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | May 19, 2022 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — A golden eagle, falcon and owl, oh my!

“Remember this special moment — most people don’t get a chance to see an eagle up close like this,” Don Veltkamp, chairman of the Birds of Prey Northwest told Valley View Elementary students when BOPNW visited.

Birds of Prey Northwest visited Valley View Elementary school with a flock of endangered and threatened raptors. Students experienced a sight that most people don’t see in their lives from a great gray owl, golden eagle and many other raptors.

Jane Veltkamp, raptor biologist, raptor rehabilitation specialist and founding director of Birds of Prey Northwest, presented the raptors as part of a lesson on animal stewardship.

“Conservation is often achieved through education and that’s what we’re doing here,” she said.

BOPNW is all funded through donations. For many students, this was the first time seeing these birds.

“If we hear a kid wants to care about animals after our presentation, then that’s our payment,” she said.

All BOPNW raptors used for the live educational programs have a disability that prevents them from returning to the wild, Veltkamp told students.

Dakota, the golden eagle, fell off a cliff face when he was young. A farmer recovered and cared for the eagle. However, that prevented the eagle from surviving on its own in the wild since it has not learned survival by other eagles.

Jane Veltkamp said that this has made him unfit for the wild.

Raptors, such as owls and eagles face many survival challenges from poachers, lead poisoning and wind turbines. Programs like this help educate people and remind them that these animals exist. Having a live animal with an impressive wingspan as part of the presentation drives home the point.

Due to the nature of these birds, the Veltkamps told the students they needed to stay still during the presentation. In the past, an excited audience clapped and distressed one of the birds and Jane Veltkamp was struck by an eagle across the forehead. She suffered a concussion and uses this life experience as an example to attendance members on the importance of being calm near these wild birds.

Don Veltkamp, chairman of the BOPNW board, said the students were one of the best groups he’s been in front of in his 30 years of teaching with raptors. And that is hard to do when sitting by your friends, he added.

The BOPNW is a nonprofit facility that takes in injured, sick, and orphaned raptors for care and rehabilitation.

The Friends of the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Kootenai Tribe sponsored the three BOPNW programs for Valley View students.

The Friends of the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge in Bonners Ferry, is also a nonprofit organization that assists the refuge in its mission to provide wildlife education, as well as help with volunteer projects that enhance wildlife habitat on the refuge, officials said.

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