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North Platte man lends a hand to area's feathered friends
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North Platte man lends a hand to area's feathered friends

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The raptor clamped tightly to Chris Pasquinelly’s hand and its talons went right through the glove and completely through his hand.

The work of rescuing injured raptors brings with it a risk that can be quite painful at times. Pasquinelly volunteers with the Raptor Conservation Alliance in Elmwood and rescues, stabilizes and transports the birds to the RCA.

“I had an owl we had to transfer from one box to another box and my kids were there watching,” Pasquinelly said. “It was a big female great horned owl and as I was getting her, she kind of slipped one leg out of my grip and grabbed my hand.

“Her talons went through the back of my hand and through the front of my hand and they passed one another as they went through.”

He said it was difficult to get the owl to let go.

“My kids were looking at me saying, ‘Dad, does this hurt,’” Pasquinelly said. “I’m going, yeah, this hurts a whole bunch.”

Pasquinelly got started with the program about six years ago, when one of the teachers at St. Patrick High School, Rachelle Allberry-McQuade, got him involved.

Raptor Recovery Rehab Center was started by Betsy Finch out of Elmwood about 30-plus years ago, Pasquinelly said.

“She is an expert on raptors,” Pasquinelly said. “As far as taking care of them, as far as fixing them, she is the renowned expert in this whole area of the country.”

Pasquinelly is an Air Transportation System Specialist with the Federal Aviation Administration as an electronics technician. He volunteers doing raptor rescue.

“We are part of the relay team,” Pasquinelly said. “We do first aid, stabilize, get them to Betsy.”

He said the group is always looking for more people that can help.

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“To become a volunteer and become certified, you have to go through a training,” Pasquinelly said. “It’s not a long training, but it’s how to do first aid, how to identify the injuries of a bird, how to stabilize them, wrap them.”

The injuries he sees the most are broken wings.

“Certain hawks, like a red-tail, when they go after a rabbit, they will actually crash right through the brush,” Pasquinelly said. “Sometimes they hurt themselves going after their food.”

He said many birds are struck by vehicles, especially owls at night.

“We see way too many birds that have been shot and that’s very frustrating for us too,” Pasquinelly said. “A lot of it is due to peoples’ ignorance of what they are and what they do.”

He said raptors are an important part of the ecosystem by eating thousands of rodents in their lifetime.

Without the certification, no one is allowed to keep a raptor over night and no one is allowed to possess any part of a raptor, including the claws or feathers.

“If you find a dead raptor, leave it alone,” he said.

Pasquinelly said he truly loves the work he does with rescuing raptors.

“To me, the most rewarding thing is the release,” Pasquinelly said. “When you get to let them go and watch them fly away, it’s just a great feeling.”

Their Facebook page, RCAbirds.org, contains more information where one can send a message about an injured bird. The Raptor Rescue Hotline number is 1-866-888-7261.


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