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Rain or shine, the zoo is open
Rehabilitated raptors get new lease on life
zoo st our raptor center
A display in the Raptor Center at the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo is decorated with pumpkins. The Raptor Center is open 362 days a year and provides a climate-controlled area for learning more about the wetlands and birds of prey. Theres also a gift shop. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Zoo Society fishing Saturday

The first Saturday of November is this week, and that means members of the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo’s Zoological Society will be fishing at the zoo from 1-5p.m.

"Hopefully we won't be ice fishing!" Zoo Director Scott Gregory said. "Either way, all members are eligible to fish and we are now selling hotdogs at the front, in case you forgot bait — or lunch!"

Memberships start at $25, and membership forms (and other information about the zoo, raptor center and zoo society) can be found on the city’s website,

It’s time for residents of central Kansas to adjust to colder weather, and that includes the birds and animals that reside at the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo.

Last Saturday’s Zoo Boo and an Indian Summer day on Halloween provided opportunity to view some of the many animals at the local zoo, but some critters moved indoors and out of sight after Wednesday’s cold snap. Zoo Curator Marge Bowman said the kinkajou, native to warmer Central and South Americas, comes inside once it gets below 50 degrees. Other animals were actually quite content to see their human visitors in coats for a change.

"The wolf loves it. The bears love it," Bowman said of the nippy day.

Currently, the zoo staff are refurbishing an old greenhouse that was donated, and the plan is to someday have a climate-controlled area where animals such as the kinkajou will be comfortable for winter viewing. But regardless of the weather, the zoo is open seven days a week. Thanks to its Raptor Center, there’s plenty to see and do even on the coldest day.

On Wednesday, as a female lion paced in an outdoor exhibit knowing feeding time was approaching, Bowman was helping veterinarian Jackie Corbett examine the wing on a young red-tailed hawk that had been dropped off for rehabilitation. The news was not good for this bird of prey, but Corbett said about half of the injured birds at the Raptor Center have been saved this year. In the wild, their chances would be close to zero.

An animal crate in the back of the care area held a more successful patient; a bald eagle brought in by U.S. Fish & Game with a wing injury had been in the zoo’s care for two weeks, and was ready to be sent to the large flight cage on the grounds of the Larned State Hospital complex. Inmates at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility will make sure the eagle and other recovering birds have food — "and then in a couple of weeks we’ll let him go," Bowman said.

A red-tailed hawk with a head injury is also scheduled to be released back into the wild soon.

Sometimes, a raptor is healed but can’t be released into the wild. Bowman said a screech owl from the Raptor Center will be going to the Bronx Zoo, and several zoos have shown interest in a Cooper’s hawk that will be leaving soon.

"They’re healthy, but they can’t fly the way they need to in the wild in order to survive," Bowman explained. "It’s illegal for us to keep any of the birds that we receive."

Zoo Director Scott Gregory said the zoo receives about 55 raptors a year. It accepts them from game officials and also from the public, but isn’t set up to go on-site to pick up injured birds, Bowman added. The Raptor Center’s website provides more information about what to do if you find an injured bird.