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Northern Michigan Raptor Rehab Receives Kindness Donations from Casino Visitors

Skegemog Center
Skegemog Donation
Eagle Day Anna Gray Searle Photo
Grand Traverse Band

Red-tailed hawk being treated by the Skegemog Raptor Center

A northern Michigan bird sanctuary is flying high after a donation from two local casinos. Each month, visitors at Leelanau Sands and Turtle Creek Casinos can donate their spare change to a non-profit group.  They call it “Cash In on Kindness.”

This month’s donations are going to the Skegemog Raptor Center, a nonprofit wildlife rescue in Grand Traverse County that specializes in the rehabilitation of raptors like eagles and hawks. Director James Manly says, “It’s quite expensive to rehabilitate all the raptors we do. With the threat of Avian Influenza, that’s added a lot of cost this year with testing and extra PPE. The Avian Influenza has a 90% mortality rate for the eagles. So we’re glad we’re starting to see the numbers subside but we’ll be testing all through this year… just to prevent the spread. It’s highly contagious.”

Manly says they’ll keep testing even though MDARD reports that case numbers are starting to come down across the state. Manly says the last reported outbreak was May 11, with the last case at the raptor center in late April.

Treating sick or injured raptors is an expensive proposition. “One of the eagles we’re treating, we’re probably over $4,000 into it right now just with that one bird,” Manly says. They could be on track for one of their busiest years ever.  “We’re well over triple our intake from last year…. We had 74 patients total last year and generally our busiest time is in August, September, and the beginning of October…. We could certainly end up well over 100,” he says.

Collecting from visitors has been going on  for two years. They’ve raised $91,000 for nonprofits, and over $4,300 for the Raptor Center. And they’re making this donation on “American Eagle Day”. Elky Reynolds with Leelanau Sands says, “Today we celebrate the protection of our American Bald Eagle, to encourage not only surviving but thriving, through the preservation of their natural habitat here in northwest Michigan.”

Photo Courtesy of Anna Gray Searle

In Native American culture, Reynolds says the eagle is one of the most revered and respected beings in creation. “It is the carrier and messenger of the Anishinaabe people, that links our prayers to the Creator.” She adds, “It holds the gifts and knowledge of higher learning and is responsible for passing on our history, traditions, stories. It provides counsel and wisdom to our tribal leaders.”

And the eagle holds special meaning for the tribe here: the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Peshawbestown was originally named Eagletown. It was renamed to honor the tribe’s original Chief, Ben Peshawba. “So Peshawbestown is “Eagle Town” hence the … eagle representation of this area,” Reynolds says.

The Raptor Center says they’re grateful to be getting a lift to help their mission soar. “We have two bald eagles currently in rehab. This will go a long way towards helping us care, provide medical care and feeding these birds and getting them back to the wild. We really appreciate the support,” Manly says. “We’re entirely dependent on donations from the public to do this work. We just really appreciate this amount and we just ask you’ll so we can get these birds back to the wild where they belong.”

National Bald Eagle Day or “” (June 20th) is a special day to commemorate the anniversary of the bald eagle’s selection as our National Symbol and to celebrate its return to America’s skies. Proclamations have been issued by governors in 49 states designating June 20th as American Eagle Day.