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New Mexico bird-of-prey rescue center threatened by lack of funds

New Mexico bird-of-prey rescue center threatened by lack of funds
A 2-year-old golden eagle nicknamed “James Dean” is among the birds of prey rescued by the Santa Fe Raptor Center in New Mexico.
(Santa Fe Raptor Center)

The golden eagle’s nickname is James Dean. That’s because he’s a bad boy and a daredevil.

And a fighter.

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The 2-year-old bird was rescued this year by a New Mexico nonprofit that assists wounded birds of prey after the creature was electrocuted on a power pole in the southern end of the state.

His body was ravaged by the electrical force. But he survived.

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“They never live after accidents like this, but this one did. He’s just incredible,” Lori Paras, founder of the Santa Fe Raptor Center, told the Los Angeles Times.

The center has a long list of dramatic rescues of such birds as turkey vultures, Mississippi kites, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons and American kestrels — birds that flew into barbed-wire fences, were hit by cars or shot illegally by hunters. But after eight years, Paras says, the organization is in jeopardy of being shut down.

Paras and her team of wildlife experts, who operate on a shoestring budget of $60,000 a year,  are running out of funds and have just enough money to make it to the end of next month. To make matters worse, hers is one of just two facilities in the state licensed to handle golden eagles.

Part of the reason is that two other bird rescue outfits have recently closed down and now Paras is overrun with squawking, majestic birds. She has 21 in rehabilitation at her center, double its capacity. She also has 11 year-round residents she uses in a school education program over nine New Mexico counties.

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“We’re filled to capacity,” Paras said. “We’ve got hungry birds that couldn’t migrate. The heat lamps are on full blast. The birds are hungry.”

It’s expensive to feed the birds, Paras says. Generally, the creatures eat frozen rats, quail and mice. A large rat costs $4, while a quail costs $3, and the center is struggling to keep up with the costs.

She empathizes with the confined birds. The turkey vultures are supposed to be on a beach in Mexico this time of year, she explained. The Mississippi kites also migrate for the winter, sometimes as far south as Argentina.

And then there’s James Dean.

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The bird’s foot and elbow were blown open by the electricity. But months of care and surgeries mean the big bird is on the mend, Paras said.

“He’s a bad boy,” she said. “In the vet’s office, he tries to take a bite out of anyone who walks by.  There’s a look James Dean had. He just puts his hackles up as if to say, “I don’t think so.”

But soon, she said, the bad boy will be free.

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john.glionna@latimes.com

@jglionna


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