Arizona bird sanctuary receives international recognition

Wild At Heart inductees into the International Owl Hall of Fame are, from left, co-founders Bob and Samantha (Sam) Fox, and Habitat Coordinator Greg Clark. Owl species pictures are, from left, Great Horned Owl, Spotted Owl and Burrowing Owl. (Photo by WAH volunteer Linda Kriegel)

Wild At Heart inductees into the International Owl Hall of Fame are, from left, co-founders Bob and Samantha (Sam) Fox, and Habitat Coordinator Greg Clark. Owl species pictures are, from left, Great Horned Owl, Spotted Owl and Burrowing Owl. (Photo by WAH volunteer Linda Kriegel)

Wild At Heart, a nonprofit organization located in Cave Creek, was one of five honorees at the recent International Festival of Owls.

WAH founders Bob and Samantha (Sam) Fox and WAH Habitat Coordinator Greg Clark were inducted into the Festival’s Hall of Fame for their work with owls. In its 25 years, WAH has achieved several firsts in rescuing, rehabilitating and conserving raptors, including:

  • Foster Parenting by Owls and Hawks. Founded in 1990, WAH established the first standardized raptor foster-parenting protocol in Arizona, which has since been adopted by other rehabilitation organizations throughout the country. Several species of foster owls and hawks care for over 100 nestlings each year.
  • Burrowing Owl Relocation. WAH has saved thousands of Burrowing Owls that were endangered by development. The organization constructed the first artificial underground burrows in Arizona and relocated rehabilitated Burrowing Owls into these new homes.

The Burrowing Owl Project has become the largest program ever attempted to rescue the owls from development and relocate them to an artificial burrow habitat. Thousands of burrows have been constructed throughout Arizona by Wild At Heart and community volunteers, and hundreds of Burrowing Owls have been trapped and relocated.

  • Breeding of Endangered Owls in Captivity. WAH was the first facility to successfully breed the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in captivity.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department approached Bob and Sam in 2006 to develop and manage a captive breeding program for the species, which would only breed in saguaro cacti.

In the wild, females select their mates. But, captivity and close quarters create new complications. If not to their liking, females may kill the courting male if he does not leave the area when she spurns his advances.

Wild At Heart developed a system of aviaries, flyways, humidity controlled chambers, and remote monitoring to successfully breed this species in captivity.

Four other individuals/programs were recognized this year by the International Owl Center, including honorees from Japan, The Netherlands, Italy, and the U.S.

Wild At Heart is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Arizona’s native birds of prey.

Go to www.wildatheartraptors.org.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.