This past Saturday people gathered on the Squaw Peak Trail overlook high above Utah Valley to watch birds take flight. After counting to three, hawks and turkey vultures took off as members and volunteers of the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue threw once injured birds into the fresh fall air.
The Great Basin Wildlife Rescue is a group of volunteers and licensed animal rescuers who rehabilitate and release injured birds back into the wild.
"Seeing everyone get excited," is Patti Richards' favorite part of the release. She's the executive director of the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue. "I’ve been doing this for almost ten years now and you kind of get used to things but it kind of pumps you up a little bit more when you see the reaction of other people. I would guarantee that most of these people have never been that close to a turkey vulture before."
Patti and other rescuers helped rehabilitate the birds after they sustained life threatening injuries. "These three birds, one was shot, and the other two suffered wing injuries, they were broken. We were able to repin them, get better and pull the pins out."
After the last vulture caught a gust of wind and flew away, a couple of tears streamed down Patti’s face. She says, "They are amazing birds. They are absolutely amazing."
"I like being outdoors, I like nature, and nature has its place," says June Ryburn, who comes again and again to see this amazing event. "I’ve been doing this for about ten years or so...and this is a time when the birds are migrating from north to south. There’s a good chance of seeing some raptors go by here."
The birds of prey released will soon travel to warmer weather. The Great Basin Wildlife Rescue says it hopes the released birds will adjust well to their new home.