- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) - A forest near Bellevue has opened a $2 million exhibit featuring birds of prey.

Fontenelle Forest held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the exhibit Tuesday afternoon, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/29XtKfk ) reported.

“This is a really, really special day,” said Merica Whitehall, the forest’s executive director. “A lot of work, a lot of thought - tremendous thought and effort has gone into realizing Raptor Woodland Refuge opening today.”

The forest’s director of education Elizabeth Chalen said the exhibit gives the public the opportunity to learn about raptors, conservation efforts and the birds’ roles in the ecosystem.

“It can teach someone more than you could ever teach someone by just talking about them,” Chalen said.

Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery team rescues sick and injured raptors and rehabilitates them before releasing them back into the wild. The team treats about 500 raptors each year, Chalen said. The exhibit currently holds 13 species such as turkey vultures, ferruginous hawks and great horned owls.

There are 12 enclosures for the birds that fit each raptors’ unique needs. For instance, some of the enclosures are built on a slope for the birds that prefer to live higher in the air or on the ground for those that prefer to be closer to land, according to Joe Vavak, a spokesman for the forest.

Signs outside each of the 12 displays explain why the birds are housed there and how the species live outside of captivity.

The birds acclimated into their new homes for about a month before Tuesday’s unveiling of the exhibit, said Janet Stander, director of raptor recovery.

“So they’re not startled, spooked or constantly scared,” Stander said.

The exhibit was mostly funded through grants, foundations and individual donors.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com


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