Northern Michigan Raptor Rehab receives donations from casino goers

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Red-tailed Hawk being treated by the Skegemog Raptor Center

A bird sanctuary in northern Michigan is flying high after a donation from two local casinos. Each month, visitors to the Leelanau Sands and Turtle Creek casinos can donate their loose change to a nonprofit group. They call it “Cash In on Kindness”.

This month’s donations go to the Skegemog Raptor Center, a nonprofit wildlife rescue in Grand Traverse County that specializes in the rehabilitation of raptors like eagles and hawks. Director James Manly says, “It’s pretty expensive to rehabilitate all the raptors we make. With the threat of bird flu, this has cost a lot of money this year through testing and extra PPE. Bird flu has a 90% mortality rate for the eagles. So we’re glad the numbers are starting to come down, but we’ll be testing all year round… just to prevent the spread. It is highly contagious.”

Manly says they will continue testing, although MDARD reports that case numbers across the state are beginning to fall. Manly says the last reported outbreak was May 11, with the last case at the Birds of Prey Center in late April.

Treating sick or injured birds of prey is an expensive affair. “One of the eagles that we cover, we’ve probably invested over $4,000 right now just with this one bird,” says Manly. You could be on your way to one of your busiest years ever. “We have far more than tripled our intake compared to last year…. We had a total of 74 patients last year and generally our busiest time is August, September and early October…. We could certainly land well over 100,” he says.

Skegemog donationVisitor gathering continued in the casinos for two years. They raised $91,000 for nonprofits and over $4,300 for the Raptor Center. And they’re making this donation on American Eagle Day. Elky Reynolds of Leelanau Sands says, “Today we celebrate the protection of our American bald eagle to promote not only survival but thriving through the preservation of their natural habitat here in Northwest Michigan.”

Eagle Day Anna Gray Searle's photo

Photo courtesy of Anna Gray Searle

In Native American culture, Reynolds says the eagle is one of the most revered and respected beings in creation. “It is the bearer and messenger of the Anishinaabe people, connecting our prayers to the Creator.” She adds: “It contains the gifts and knowledge of higher learning and is responsible for transmitting our history, traditions and stories. It offers advice and wisdom to our tribal leaders.”

Large Traverse BandAnd the eagle has special significance for the tribe here: the Grand Traverse Band of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Peshawbetown was originally called Eagletown. It was renamed in honor of the tribe’s original chief, Ben Peshawba. “So Peshawbetown is ‘Eagle Town’, hence the… eagle representation of this area,” says Reynolds.

The Raptor Center says they are grateful to be given a ride to further their mission. “We currently have two bald eagles in rehab. This will help us a lot in caring for, medical and feeding these birds and releasing them back into the wild. We really appreciate the support,” says Manly. “We rely entirely on donations from the public for this work. We really appreciate this amount and just ask for it help support our work so we can put these birds back in the wild where they belong.”

National Bald Eagle Day or “American Eagle Day” (20th June) is a special day to commemorate the anniversary of the bald eagle’s choice as our national symbol and to celebrate its return to the American skies. Proclamations have been issued by governors in 49 states declaring June 20 as American Eagle Day.

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