Since taking off in 2000, the Ojai Raptor Center (ORC) has always had a simple goal: rehab and release birds of prey. But thanks to the ongoing drought, that goal has become more difficult to achieve.
“If there’s no water, then there’s no prey,” said ORC founder Kim Stroud, who leads a small staff and large band of volunteers in a constant quest for a reliable prey base. “So animals are migrating into cities because we water in town. Birds adapt to living in towns very well, so we’re going to have babies in the spring in towns, unfortunately.”
The ORC costs around $10,000 to $12,000 a month to run and takes in around 500-1,000 hawks, falcons, owls, and eagles a year, along with a small percentage of non-raptor birds and mammals. Most of these sick, starving, or injured animals arrive from anywhere between Thousand Oaks and Santa Barbara and are eventually released back into the wild whenever possible. When releasing the raptors, the ORC is permitted to band them, which provides data if and when they return. One of the most recent returnees was a starving barn owl, which had been released two weeks prior.
The busiest times of the year are fall into winter, when raptors are migrating through the region, and in the spring, when chicks are born and nests are active. That’s when the center sees lots of orphans from resident raptors.
“It’s feeding, cleaning, rearing, and releasing,” said Stroud. “It’s dawn until after dark every day in the spring.”
The Ojai Raptor Center is not open to the public but hosts two annual open houses, the next of which is Sunday, April 10, noon-4 p.m. Call (805) 649-6884 or visit ojairaptorcenter.org.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the ORG cost $12,000 a day to run rather than per month.