A small education center about birds of prey opened downtown this summer by Raptors Wild will close at the end of September, but the nonprofit is looking to reopen next year perhaps at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.

Mike Fauteaux, executive director of Raptors Wild, a nonprofit based in Aztec, said his small education center at 563 Main Ave. was created not only to provide information about birds of prey but also to raise money.

Because of COVID-19, Fauteaux could not resume raptor educational shows he put on last year at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, and that cut off one of his major sources of fundraising.

“COVID shut us down in February and one of our main goals here is to open up a way to raise funds. We want to buy feed through winter,” he said.

The education center asks for a $6 donation to enter. In addition, a $50 donation is asked to touch Spooky, a Eurasian eagle-owl, one of the largest owl species. Female Eurasian eagle-owls can reach 30 inches in height with a wing span of 6 feet, 2 inches. Female raptors are typically 30% bigger than males.

Spooky is the star of the center, which usually displays seven to nine birds from Raptors Wild collection of about 32 birds.

“Kids love Spooky when they come in, they see birds and it gives them respect for them. They say, ‘I’ve seen them on TV, but they’re real,’” Fauteaux said.

Fauteaux, who has been a falconer for 42 years, said one of his goals is to purchase a male for Spooky so he can breed them. The $50 donation to touch Spooky goes to Spooky’s romance fund, Fauteaux said.

Most of Fauteaux’s birds come from captive breeding programs. A few of his birds are rescue birds.

Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, said he and Fauteaux are discussing relocating the Raptors Wild education center to the D&SNG Museum’s outdoor grange area next year.

“I really like what he does,” Harper said. “It’s fascinating, and the more activity we can get downtown, the better,” Harper said.

Besides looking at the D&SNG Museum, Fauteaux is looking at returning to the fairgrounds next year. He said the location for his education center and perhaps the return of the raptor shows will be dependent on what is allowed given the COVID-19 pandemic.

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