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A Second Chance at life and freedom

This Golden Eagle had been hit by a semi and crippled, but after treatment it is healed and free as a bird.
The Great Horned Owl, though injured for life, still looks like it wants to rip a chunk out of nature photographer C.J. McManus.

Sun Advocate reporter

The cyclical change of the seasons brings new activity and work to most everyone in Castle Country. Only months ago, residents were mowing their lawns and preparing for fall chores. The work never stops, only the season. In much the same way, the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has seasonal challenges and commitments of its own. If the birds are not hatching, they're mating; if they are not migrating, they are nesting.

But no matter what the task, it seems they are always getting hurt.

Wildlife center administrator Debbie Pappas has been working at constant wildlife rehabilitation for longer than she cares to remember. The information she gathers and the care she gives provide a small glimpse into the life of those who save abandoned and often severely mangled wildlife.

According to the director, Second Chance received a young Golden Eagle which had been hit by a semi last December on Interstate 70 near Colorado.

"He suffered from head trauma and two fractures in his left wing," she explained. "After a successful rehabilitation we saw some great results. He was kill tested and released back into the wild."

Pappas and her crew of volunteers strive to release every animal they take in. However, if not fully ready, release can mean certain death for some animals.

"We work very hard to keep these injured creatures wild. If we allowed people to pet small and very cute predatory birds, they stop being predators," she explained. "Baby hawks are not pets."

Pappas has a wide net of volunteers and organizations which happily take in the animals she can not re-integrate back into their natural habitat.

The center director runs a blog at, where wildlife enthusiasts or the curious can find more detail about her work.

"Support your local wildlife rehabilitation center, all of our work is accomplished through donations with no funding or pay from any source," explained Pappas. "Every patient that comes through our doors needs treatment. Most need surgeries that are extremely expensive and require lengthy post-operative care and medication."

Pappas, along with her long-time volunteer and friend Connie Waddell, often discuss the public misconception that their services and supplies are paid for by the state and/or the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

According to Waddell, it is the DWR that often approaches Pappas for help with the greatest number of animals. "They also tend to be the most badly injured," Waddell said this summer. "You would think the cold would be our ally but we see more badly injured animals and birds every cold season."

While the cold weather and snow do slow down some animals, others are ramped up, preparing for or embarking on their migration.

Currently at the center, a female Red-Tail Hawk is doing well. The group will soon be moving her into their flight as a final preparation and condition for release. Right now, the center also is treating a crow (gunshot victim) and California Gull.

According to Pappas, the pair have been hanging out together in the large flight.

"I need to see what each of them can do and since they are not a threat to each other and have a large area, they can hang out there and they seem to be enjoying each other's company," she said. "I have remote cameras hooked up in the flight and am able to watch what's going on throughout the day. It's been quite entertaining."

Last but not least, Danny, the center's Great Horned owl is non-releasable due to his injuries and will be headed to Kansas, hopefully this week, reported Waddell.

The owl's paperwork is now finished and his health exam showed him ready to cross state lines. "We are so happy for him," concluded Pappas. "We are still waiting on the paperwork to be finalized for our one-eyed Swainson's Hawk. He will be going to a facility in New York as an educational bird."

Donations to the center can be made by contacting Pappas directly at 435-650-3441 or by visiting the center on Carbonville Road.

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