In the early 1970s, Dr. Gary Duke was conducting research on turkeys as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Meanwhile, Dr. Patrick Redig was a sophomore veterinary student working with Duke, who then went on to get a PhD in avian physiology. Four baby great horned owls changed the fate of both.
A vet student brought Dr. Duke four baby great horned owls which Dr. Duke used to study avian meat eaters and Dr. Redig, an avid falconer, cared for and learned to repair the injuries of the owls for release back into the wild. From this beginning, the two founded The Raptor Center (TRC).
Dr. Redig pioneered the avian orthopedic and anesthetic techniques used today, and also began using non-releasable birds to educate the public about raptor behavior, their environment, and the threats they face.
A wonderful story about TRC's founding fathers, Dr. Duke and Dr. Redig, was featured in our 40th anniversary issue of our Raptor Release newsletter.
Today, the magic of raptors makes it possible for The Raptor Center’s educational programs to reach more than 150,000 people annually.
From its humble 1974 beginning in Haecker Hall on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, a lot has changed and much has been accomplished:
The Raptor Center began receiving an annual grant of $5,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support its veterinary work with endangered species such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon.
1980 - 1989
- TRC compiled the first edition of Medical Management of Birds of Prey, which detailed the medical and surgical techniques Dr. Redig developed for birds of prey. Revised in 1993, the book is still considered a definitive guide to raptor medicine and surgery used by avian veterinarians all over the world.
- Dr. Redig partnered with Bud Tordoff from the Bell Museum, in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy and the falconry community, to obtain and to release peregrine falcon chicks at appropriate nesting sites. In 1981 there were two known nesting pairs on the Midwestern North American continent, southeastern Manitoba, and the Lake Superior basin of Ontario. As of August 2003, there were 144 nesting pairs in 9 Midwestern states and adjoining Canadian provinces. The peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list in 1999.
- The Raptor Center developed a sensitive and accurate diagnostic test for aspergillosis, the most common fatal disease of raptors.
- The Raptor Center staff and birds moved into a new, state-of-the-art facility constructed with funds donated by Don and Louise Gabbert of Minneapolis, Minn. The $2.5 million, 21,000-square-foot facility allowed the Raptor Center to further develop rehabilitation, education, research, and conservation activities. It is the only facility of its kind in the world.
1990 - 1999
- The Raptor Center established a three-year veterinary residency program in raptor medicine. It is the only such program in the world.
- The PUF Raptor Professorship endowment established with gifts of more than $25,000 from Katherine B. Andersen, Sarah J. Andersen, Bruce C. Dayton, the Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust, Mardag Foundation, Solly Robins, and the Donald Weesner Estate. Original gifts totaled more than $258,000 and have grown to over $612,000.
- Lead was banned for hunting waterfowl, owing in part to Dr. Redig's research showing a link between lead poisoning in eagles and the ingestion of spent shot in waterfowl carcasses. The ban came about as a result of a lawsuit by the National Wildlife Federation for which Dr. Redig served as an advisor to the legal team.
- Dr. Redig appointed to the California Condor Recovery Team, based out of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento, CA. In 1985, the California condor population had been reduced to 26 birds, of which only 9 remained in the wild. On April 11, 2002, for the first time in 18 years, a California condor egg laid in the wild was hatched in California's Ventura County.
- With Dr. Redig as the senior editor, the University of Minnesota Press published Raptor Biomedicine II. The book contained contributions from raptor veterinarians and biologists in 10 countries.
- Nero the turkey vulture, previously used for research to track California condors, came to TRC as an education bird.
- In collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, The Raptor Center produced “Hunters of the Sky,” a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that provides a closer look at raptors. The award-winning project toured over 10 years before permanently installed as an exhibit in Amarillo, TX.
- The Raptor Rehabilitation Endowment established to support TRC's clinical work with gifts in excess of $25,000 from Katherine B. Andersen, Harriet S. Lykken, and an Anonymous Donor. This endowment has grown to $955,000.
- Dr. Redig developed the tie-in fixator, a device that stabilizes fractures during healing. This device revolutionized orthopedic management of fractures in birds.
- TRC began a field study using satellite telemetry to monitor migratory routes, stopover sites, and wintering grounds of ospreys, bald eagles, and Swainson’s hawks in North America. This study resulted in Audubon adding several locations to its Important Bird Areas listing.
- TRC published Care and Management of Captive Raptors, a manual now used as the standard by many state and federal wildlife management agencies. In January 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided all individuals and organizations holding permits for raptors must comply with the standards specified in Care and Management. A revision of this book was published in 1997.
- Dr. Jannette Ackermann completed her residency and graduate program under Dr. Redig’s tutelage, with her research on surgical repair of elbow luxations leading to medical and surgical protocols for raptors.
- Raptor Biomedicine III was published as a 10-year successor to Raptor Biomedicine II. Dr. Redig was an editor and the organizer of the symposium held in South Africa from which the papers published in this book were derived.
- The Raptor Center engaged in a study of lead poisoning in bald eagles along the Mississippi River. Dr. Redig has been testing every admitted bald eagle since 1976, so this data provided a clear view of morbidity and mortality among eagles from lead poisoning from spent ammunition. These efforts continue to this day at TRC, as 90% of eagles assessed show elevated lead residues in their blood.
- A substantial gift from longtime supporters Doug and Wendy Dayton established the Patrick T. Redig Professorship in Raptor Medicine and Surgery at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.
- The peregrine falcon was removed from the Endangered Species List, a milestone in endangered species management success, contributed in large part by the work done by the Raptor Center and Tordoff in re-establishing the peregrine in the Midwestern states.
- Maxime the bald eagle was admitted to TRC with permanent injuries and became an education bird.
2000 - 2009
- Dr. Richard Jones, from Wales, completed his residency and graduate program with Dr. Redig as his advisor. His work developing a surgical process to perform endoscopy-guided vasectomy in immature birds is now utilized in hybrid falcons to prevent reproduction.
- Lois, a great horned owl, was admitted at a young age as a human imprint. Unable to be released, she became an education bird.
- Dr. Redig received the Conservation Award from the Association of Avian Veterinarians for lifelong dedication to improving the welfare of the avian population.
- Dr. Jalila Abu, from Malaysia, completed her residency and Ph.D with Dr. Redig as her advisor. Her research on demineralized bone matrix in avian orthopedics has contributed to a growing body of knowledge used in both human and veterinary fracture repairs.
- West Nile virus swept across the Midwest killing wild and captive birds in significant numbers, including many endangered birds. In collaboration with the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, Dr. Redig began an effort to test and license a recombinant-DNA vaccine developed by the CDC, which has already proved effective in test studies.
- Dr. Redig named chair of the Lead Mitigation subcommittee for the California Condor Recovery Team, along with partners: California Fish and Game Department, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports, Safari International, and Wildlife Management Institute.
- Dr. Miguel Sagesse, a veterinary resident from Argentina, completed his master’s thesis on West Nile virus vaccine and transfer of maternal antibody.
- TRC’s environmental education program extended its reach through a partnership with the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow program, allowing TRC to connect with underserved children, create a youth service-learning program, and expand volunteer roles.
- Raptors in Captivity: A Guide to Care and Management, collaboratively written by The Raptor Center staff, was adopted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as their standard on captive raptor management.
- TRC’s professional education expanded to include raptor care professionals and veterinary technicians, including annual workshops, wet-labs, and online classes
- The University of Minnesota honors Dr. Redig for his pioneering work in avian orthopedics with the inclusion of the fixator that he developed on the Wall of Discovery, located along the Scholar’s Walk.
- Dr. Redig retires as Director of The Raptor Center to refocus his efforts on conservation and ecology.
- Dr. Julia Ponder named Executive Director of The Raptor Center.
- The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine presents Dr. Redig an award for excellence in service.
- The bald eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List, in no small part by the 30+ years of work in rehabilitation, informing public policy, education, and research conducted by TRC.
- Dr. Redig named Chair of Midwest Peregrine Society, responsible for monitoring of the peregrine falcon population in the Midwest.
- The Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association awards Dr. Redig its Outstanding Faculty Award for Service to the profession.
- Funded by grant from LCCMR (Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources), TRC developed tools for monitoring health data from wildlife.
- Duke Lecture Series inaugurated - lectureship endowed by William and Betty Holleman in memory of Dr. Gary Duke.
- Spanish language program developed to expand education programming
- Clinic equipment upgraded thanks to a grant from the Katherine B Andersen Fund of the St. Paul Foundation, including acquisition of a digital radiograph.
2010 - Present
- Dr. Luis Cruz completed his residency, with his research including investigation of lead exposure from ammunition sources in bald eagles and stress hormone analysis in great-horned owls.
- Building on work done through the LCCMR grant (2008), the Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative was launched. The long-term goal of this initiative is to create a network of rehabilitation centers tracking population and health data of animals seen in wildlife clinics.
- With a grant from the Association of Avian Veterinarians, TRC conducted a study of the use of MRI to localize brain lesions from lead toxicity in bald eagles.
- Dr. Julia Ponder received award from Association of Avian Veterinarians for outstanding service and commitment to advancing and promoting avian medicine and stewardship.
- Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, and Island Conservation asked The Raptor Center to work with them to design and implement a mitigation plan to protect Galapagos hawks during a project to eradicate invasive rats on ten small islands in Galapagos.
- Two new workshops started: Basic Raptor Rehabilitation (4 days) and Advanced Avian Orthopedics (1 day)
- The Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative completed a study looking at the prevalence of lead toxicity in five species of birds.
- Gail Buhl, education program manager, Received the Roger Tory Peterson Award for Excellence in Interpretation.
- Morris Animal Foundation awarded The Raptor Center a grant to assess the impacts of crude oil on reproduction of migratory birds in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- Malar the American Kestrel admitted with permanent injuries, subsequently becoming an education ambassador bird.
- TRC celebrated its 40th anniversary and broke ground on new construction
- Dr Redig was given the T.J. Lafeber Avian Practitioner of the Year Award at the Association of Avian Veterinarians conference for advancing the quality of health care for companion birds.
- Renovation of the outdoor enclosures and housing for our resident education birds completed.
- Minnesota Construction Association awarded Graham Construction the 2016 Award of Excellence for Renovation, Expansion, Or Tenant Improvement Project for the education and rehabilitation bird housing at TRC.
- Freedom the bald eagle admitted to our clinic after being rescued by a veteran on July 4th. Unable to return to the wild, Freedom began training to become an education bird.
- New undergrad minor created at the University of Minnesota through a partnership with TRC; Managed and Captive Wildlife
- Renovated visitor center opens to the public
- Partners for Wildlife (P4W), a new program working with wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians, created and partnered with TRC. Internships, grants, outreach, and education all provided to vets and wildlife rehabilitators through P4W.