- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SELAH, Wash. (AP) - Wounded birds - wings damaged, ability to fly curtailed - can be healed.

People, too.

They can fight back to strength, become whole again and take wing.

For Natasha Shintar, who is working toward freedom herself, she’s landed in a hopeful place.

She’s volunteering four hours a week at the Raptor House Rehabilitation Center in Selah, which has been nursing injured hawks, falcons and other birds of prey back to health for the past 17 years.

Shintar empties and cleans cages, feeds the birds as well as a snake and horses, freshens water and helps in training exercises.

The 19-year-old doesn’t view her time as a chore.

For one thing, she gets to interact with golden and bald eagles, Swainson’s hawks, Great Horned owls and a turkey vulture.

“I like seeing all different birds and types I haven’t seen before,” she explains.

Many birds end up at the Raptor House for mending, such as an owl who lost his feathers or a gaunt baby hawk who wasn’t getting enough food in the nest.

Shintar can relate to the work they have to do to turn themselves around.

She’s volunteering at the raptor house as part of a state rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders. This is the final leg before she’s no longer under sentencing and can go free.

Several years ago, Shintar, who grew up in Bellingham, was arrested for assault.

“I don’t remember doing it,” she says. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Now, she says, she’s in the right place.

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