Birds of prey sometimes get a bad rap, and Ken Lockwood has made it his life’s work to change that.
“When I first moved out here, a lot of people didn’t understand them,” said Lockwood, owner of Eagle Valley Raptor Center in Cheney. “Through time, they realized just how important they are to us.”
Eagle Valley Raptor Center is a wildlife center dedicated to helping injured birds of prey become independent and return to nature. Lockwood said birds of prey prevent societal problems like crop destruction and the spread of disease by eating common pests such as mice, rats and even skunks that carry rabies.
The center provides private guided tours for schools, scout, family, church and senior groups interested in learning more about Kansas birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, owls, kites, falcons and vultures. Visitors have the chance to feed and take photographs of the large, majestic birds.
“I’m a firm believer in making [people’s visits] personal and helping them learn the important role they play in our Kansas environment,” Lockwood said.
Visitors to Eagle Valley first will receive education about birds of prey in the center’s pavilion. For example, “the average barn owl eats over 3,000 mice a year,” Lockwood said. He said he has a waiting list of farmers wanting barn owls in their barns.
After the education session, Lockwood takes visitors to view and interact with the center’s permanent feathered ambassadors. Most of the birds are rescue animals that are healing and eventually will be returned to the wild. A handful of the birds are permanent residents, birds that cannot return to the wild because of permanent injury or other reasons.
One of these birds is a bald eagle named WaSu. As Lockwood showed him his dinner of fresh fish and rats, his ornery personality shone through as he took the food and protected his treat.
Lockwood hasn’t always worked with birds. He said his first career for the U.S. Postal Service left much to be desired. With his love of animals, he spent four years at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard.
Then with the blessing of his wife, Susan, he started building the center more than 12 years ago, and he has never been happier. Since then, the center has taken in about 175 injured birds a year.
Lockwood’s birds suffer from injuries resulting from collisions with cars, lead poisoning, gunshots, traps and babies blown out of nests during storms. He nurtures the birds back to health, using training he obtained before he opened the center. He has a high success rate with baby birds, and he saves nearly 45 percent of the adult birds he takes in.
“That’s the fun part about working with them, is when you take something that is injured, and then later watch their wings open up, and fly off,” he said. “That’s an amazing feeling.”
The center is licensed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and it operates on admission fees and private and corporate donations from people Lockwood said care about animals.
“These birds need a voice, too,” he said. To schedule your visit to the Eagle Valley Raptor Center, call 316-393-0710 or email Ken Lockwood at email@example.com. Visit eaglevalleyraptorcenter.org and like Eagle Valley Raptor Center on Facebook.