...and snake removal service For several days in a row, I saw a white safari-type Land Rover parked in the boatyard with the words “Raptor and Wildlife Refuge of Tasmania” painted on its side and in smaller letters just below “Snake Removal Service”. I wondered about it, but never seemed to associate the truck owner with anyone in the boatyard. I was so hoping the owner wasn't plying his snake-removal trade in my neighborhood.
Meanwhile, a fellow on a small sailboat in the water near us had asked David for a hand with a small job on his boat and David gladly obliged. We chatted amiably with him throughout the day while tending to our various outside chores. Come to find out, Craig is the owner of the truck and he also owns the Raptor and Wildlife Refuge. It's located on 20 acres just up the road in Kettering and he invited us to come for a visit. Despite the beckon of boat chores, we didn't hesitate for a second accepting his invitation.
All of the facilities at the Raptor Refuge have been built without any government financial support. Craig's own bank account, private grants and contributions from other concerned conservationists and refuge support members have allowed him to continue to build what he started in 1998. The facilities include a new educational center, two of the largest raptor flight aviaries in the southern hemisphere, as well as several smaller enclosures. He's in the process of building a flight test tunnel which will allow him to evaluate his patients and determine when they can be released back into the wild. Though he concentrates primarily on injured raptors, he won't turn away any hurt animal as evidenced by a wallaby that received a kind word during our tour.
He is quick to point out that this is a “refuge for hurt animals”, not a zoo. It will never be “open to the public”. We felt very privileged to have the opportunity to visit the refuge with him as our guide. He plans to offer school visits to educate kids about raptors and he will have “open days” for members and invited guests, but no regular admission hours. His work is with the raptors and wildlife, not the public, and he takes it seriously.
As we wandered from cage to cage, Craig took the time to educate us about each of the birds we encountered. We saw swamp harriers first. These small raptors are the only ones who nest on the ground and are many times injured by farmers during the hay-mowing season such as was the case with the fellow we saw.
In one cage, we saw an Australian hobby, one of Australia's smallest, native raptors. We saw a peregrine falcon in the next cage. This falcon is not only the fastest bird on earth, it is in fact, the fastest animal on earth with diving speeds clocked at over 200mph.
There were several wedge-tailed eagles in one of the huge aviaries. Some were irreparably injured and would remain at the refuge, but a couple were healing well and would be released soon. We watched as one in particular soared overhead, obviously ready for Craig to return him to the wild.
I liked the grey goshawks, especially a white female morph that was a permanent refuge resident. In typical female fashion, she posed nicely for a photo before heading for the cover of some bush. The local farmers, however, are not enamored with goshawks as they have a penchant for chicken dinners.
Two masked owls, amazingly strong and adept hunters, sat perched in the corner of an enclosure. To demonstrate their noiseless flight, Craig prompted one of them to move to the other side of the cage. As promised, not a wing flutter was heard … perfect silence. No wonder they're such stealthy hunters. This guy unfortunately was blind in one eye.
We noted, as we were leaving, a small enclosed cage at the entrance to the refuge with a bandaged eagle painted on the front. This was the drop-off box for injured animals, just in case Craig wasn't there.
Craig indicated he'd been very busy with snake calls over the last couple of days. It's warmed up considerably and the snakes are more active. He'd thought to stop by last night to show us a tiger snake he'd just caught … the fourth most venomous snake in the world ... but got another snake call to attend to. Just in case you were wondering the cost for snake removal: AU$80.
Cost of peace of mind once the snake is removed: priceless.