I recently enjoyed a visit to a uniquely Oklahoma facility just south of Perkins on Highway 177. The Grey Snow Eagle House is an eagle rehabilitation center run by the Iowa Nation of Oklahoma. This project is one that all Oklahomans can be proud of and should be on the bucket list of every nature lover.
Photo of a Golden Eagle by L. Dillon. Click to enlarge.
The Bah Kho-je Xla Chi (Grey Snow Eagle House) was completed in January 2006 with funds provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Iowa Tribe. Since it’s illegal to possess eagles or even eagle feathers without a USFWS permit, the Iowas possess two different permits. The Religious-Use Permit allows the Tribe to house eagles that are non-releasable due to the nature or severity of their injuries. This permit also allows the tribe to gather naturally molted feathers and distribute them to tribal members for use in cultural ceremonies. The second permit allows the Tribe to rehabilitate eagles for their eventual release. The Iowa Tribe is the first tribe in the country to be permitted through the USFWS as Eagle Rehabilitators. They have helped several other tribes establish eagle rehab centers in their relatively short history.
Tours are by appointment only and I’ll provide contact information. We toured with the Tulsa Audubon Society and everyone seemed to enjoy the visit immensely. Lots of questions from this knowledgeable group. I want to extend a big Oklahoma ‘thank you’ to John Kennington for the invite.
We were greeted by Wildlife Manager Victor Roubidoux who immediately made everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Victor is a soft-spoken, sincere man that you just immediately like. He has a real passion for eagles and it shows. The Iowas are a small tribe with just over 700 members, so building and operating this facility takes a big bite out of their budget. There are no monetary rewards, but the spiritual reward is great and can’t be measured in dollars. As an Oklahoma nature lover, I salute the Iowas and the staff at Grey Snow Eagle House for their service and dedication to helping injured eagles.
The smaller eagle in front is a male, the larger female. Photo by L. Dillon.
Currently there are 48 eagles in the facility. About a dozen are Golden Eagles and the remainder Bald Eagles. They also have a few miscellaneous raptors that for one reason or another have ended up there. Every bird has a story. All the eagles have names and several seem to have bonds with their keepers. Many can fly limited distances within the flight cages, but not well enough to be released. Four eagles are currently being prepared for release. Others have serious injuries that are heart-breaking to see. But given their circumstance, they are treated well and live in a loving, clean environment with other eagles. That is about the best that can be done for them. The Iowa culture doesn’t permit the euthanizing of eagles.
Put the Grey Snow Eagle House on your list of Oklahoma places to visit this year. Check out the Iowa’s website at http://www.iowanation.org/page/home/government/office-of-environmental-services/eagle-aviary or friend them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/GreySnowEagleHouse
Photo by L. Dillon. Click to enlarge.