In a letter shared to the public on Monday, Juneau Raptor Center President Dale Cotton announced “it is with great sorrow” that the center has decided to suspend its operations in Juneau after 35 years of service. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire )

In a letter shared to the public on Monday, Juneau Raptor Center President Dale Cotton announced “it is with great sorrow” that the center has decided to suspend its operations in Juneau after 35 years of service. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire )

Juneau raptor center suspends operations

Expect a phased wind-down with building vacated by end of the year

Some of Juneau’s most beloved birds will be saying goodbye to their nests in the capital city after it was announced that the Juneau Raptor Center will be suspending its operations.

In a letter shared to the public on Monday, Juneau Raptor Center President Dale Cotton announced “it is with great sorrow” that the center has decided to suspend its operations in Juneau after 35 years of service.

The center will say goodbye to Lady Baltimore, the famous bald eagle that resides atop Mount Roberts, along with the center’s two other education birds, Blueberry and Justice. The trio will be sent to the Alaska Raptor Center located in Sitka, Cotton said, but no departure date has been set.

[Moving on up: Lady Baltimore gets used to new home]

Cotton said the center will suspend its operations in phases with its pager going silent at the end of September, followed by its phone, website and PayPal at the end of October and email at the end of the year. She said the center will also vacate its location tentatively at the end of the year and will cease to have a physical place of operations.

“It’s tough for a lot of us,” Cotton said in a phone interview with the Empire. “We had some hard times but we’ve always been able to bounce back — but not this time.”

She said if people in Juneau need emergency care for a bird they should call other emergency facilities in Juneau that accept birds. It was not immediately clear what entity will be able to respond to reports of injured birds. However, according to Juneau Animal Rescue’s Executive Director, Samantha Blankenship, JAR cannot legally provide care for wildlife and will not be able to accept wild birds brought into its clinic.

“Wildlife is a completely different specialty and we can’t legally deal with wildlife,” she said. “It’s a completely different medical field.”

She said in the past the JAR has sent any wild bird brought into its clinic to the Juneau Raptor Center, and said the closure of it “will put a strain on an already strained community.”

Both Cotton and Vice President Janet Capito said there are many factors that led to the decision with the biggest factors being the loss of volunteers and board members, COVID-19 and the highly pathogenic avian influenza which forced the clinic to stop accepting birds in May.

“We have never been hit with anything like COVID or with the avian flu,” Cotton said.

She said there is no end date for when the center might return to operating again, and said closing is not out of the question.

“Closure is a possibility, but at this moment we’re just ceasing operations and lying low and who knows maybe next summer it could turn around — we don’t know,” she said.

Cotton and Capito said they are grateful for the support the center has received since its establishment in 1987.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people and organizations within the Juneau community, as well as those outside Juneau, who have been supportive and caring in the work that we have done and accomplished these past years. We would not have been able to do as much as we have,” Cotton wrote.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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