Eugene wildlife care facility forced to close following severe winter weather

By Brian Bull (KLCC)
Jan. 20, 2024 8:08 p.m.

Winter storm caused more than $30,000 worth of damage to Cascades Raptor Center, staff estimated

A power pole lies in part of the Cascades Raptor Center's property, complicating efforts to clean up damage.

A power pole lies in part of the Cascades Raptor Center's property, complicating efforts to clean up damage.

Brian Bull / KLCC

The recent ice storms ravaged a rescue and rehabilitation facility for birds of prey in Eugene.

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Staff at the Cascades Raptor Center say it’s now closed for repairs, and will remain so until further notice.

Several of the CRC’s aviaries were crushed by ice and fallen trees. A power pole also fell, creating an electrical hazard and complicating efforts to move vehicles up the driveway.

Staff estimated the storm caused more than $30,000 worth of damage, and will take hundreds of hours to repair.

Walking along the piles of gathered downed branches, the site’s bird curator, Kit Lacy, pointed out the more damaged areas.

“Here’s our power pole on the ground, across our driveway,” she said. A few volunteers walked by carrying bundles of branches, avoiding the lines spiraling along the rugged hillside.

Kit Lacy, bird curator for the Cascades Raptor Center, stands outside two aviaries that took heavy tree and ice damage during the ice storms.

Kit Lacy, bird curator for the Cascades Raptor Center, stands outside two aviaries that took heavy tree and ice damage during the ice storms.

Brian Bull / KLCC

All resident birds are safe, center says

Lacy said thankfully, all resident ambassador birds are safe. One — Lorax the Great Horned Owl — was feared crushed under debris when staff arrived Tuesday morning.

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“They got into action to try to get in under the rubble, look for her, and couldn’t find her in there,” recalled Lacy. “Then they started calling her name. And she called back to them. And she was up the hill perched in tree. And the look on her face looked a little bit like relief.”

When Lorax’s trainer, Carrie Lorenz, extended her arm, Lorax flew right down to and perched on it.

“Which was the best feeling in the world,” Lorenz said in a release. “As trainers, we spend a lot of time developing a strong relationship between us and the birds we work with. I’m so glad our relationship with Lorax was strong enough that she trusted me, and flew right down to the glove even after that traumatic experience.”

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Lacy said aside from a small abrasion on her face, Lorax is fine. And after inspections, the remaining birds on site are fine.

Of the 36 aviaries housing the CRC’s ambassador birds, two were completely destroyed (the other is Atticus the Bald Eagle’s home) and six others are needing repairs to their roof panels. A generator is helping provide power, and there are some burst pipes in the administrative building.

A bird aviary at Cascades Raptor Center was damaged by fallen trees, branches and ice after the recent winter weather.

A bird aviary at Cascades Raptor Center was damaged by fallen trees, branches and ice after the recent winter weather.

Brian Bull / KLCC

Seeking donations for repairs

The center is taking donations for emergency repairs, and seeking qualified help with clearing the wreckage. Until that’s done, Lacy says they won’t bring volunteers in because it’s not safe. Additionally, large broken branches — aka “widow makers” — are a constant concern across the property and trails, which will also need to be removed before the public can visit again.

The CRC’s Louise Shimmel Wildlife Hospital will stay open, so people can still call in sick or injured birds. The Raptor Hotline (541-485-2320 ext. 1) has been busy over the past week, with people calling in numerous birds coated with ice, some missing tails.

Lacy said they hope to reopen on Feb. 1, ahead of a special event on Feb. 13 when they’ll be hosting an international bird training conference with 140 participants coming to Eugene.

“We definitely want to be able to put our best foot forward then,” said Lacy.

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