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Illinois Raptor Center to spread its wings with donation from Ameren Illinois

Kenny the eagle wanted to soar today at the Illinois Raptor Center (IRC) in Decatur after receiving a $50,000 contribution from Ameren Illinois as part of the utility’s avian protection initiative.

The donation will enable the center to build 36 additional raptor cages located behind the conservation education center. This will become home to the permanent residents ranging from bald eagles, to falcons, to owls.

As the largest wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education facility in central Illinois, the IRC provides outreach education as well as raptor camps, beginning birder camps and the annual family owl prowl. Jack Nuzzo, program director, was thrilled to receive the donation so the educational raptors can be separated from the injured wildlife in rehabilitation.

“Ameren Illinois’ assistance has been tremendous,” Nuzzo says. “We have 66 outdoor facilities. It’s kind of mind-boggling when you think about it. As of this spring, when the educational birds move over … we’ve almost got this endless source of hospital caging. We can take in quite a few birds and get them rehabbed. And some of these will be dedicated facilities just to (handle) certain species, which will be great.”

Ameren Illinois made the contribution through the Ameren Corporation Charitable Trust.

“The IRC provides an invaluable service to the community not only be retrieving and rehabbing injured birds, but also by providing education about wildlife and the environment,” said Richard J. Mark, president and CEO, Ameren Illinois. “We work closely with the IRC and other avian experts to help train our employees on what to do if they come across an injured bird of prey. Recently, a co-worker responded to a report of an injured owl in a substation that turned out to be an endangered barn owl. Because of the avian protection skills training he received from the IRC, he knew exactly what to do and the owl is now recovering here at the IRC.”

The facility is surrounded by several prairie grass restoration fields, which attract additional wildlife. As a way to protect the birds that visit the area, IRC worked with Ameren Illinois to install swan flight diverters on conductors and retrofitted the poles’ top crossarms to make them safe for a large raptor to use as a perch, protecting the birds in the area.

 “We worked with the IRC and installed the swan-flight diverters along the property line. The diverters attach to the overhead lines and provide a larger visual identifier allowing birds more reaction time to correct their flight pattern,” said Riley Adams, Ameren Illinois Avian Protection Program Manager. “Over the past five years, we have worked extensively with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other industry experts to develop a comprehensive and proactive avian protection plan.”

Nearly 300 raptors are brought to the IRC in a year for rehabilitation and potential return to the wild. The IRC plans to move the educational birds into the new mews next spring which will open over 24 raptor cages to be used for rehabilitation.

An additional part of the utility’s avian protection initiative, Ameren Illinois hired consulting firm Engineering Data Management to locate all the eagle and osprey nests in Illinois and pinpoint them using GPS.

“We developed an electronic map system of Illinois, and we took all the GPS locations of eagle nests and osprey nests, and we overlaid our facilities in relation to those,” Riley said. “Then we went out and physically inspected about 150 circuits in the state  – that’s where most of the raptors are. In 2012, Ameren retrofitted 1,400 structures on those 150 circuits in high density raptor areas.”

About Illinois Raptor Center

The Illinois Raptor Center is a 25-acre wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education facility located along the Sangamon River in Decatur and Macon County, Illinois. The Illinois Raptor Center has served the people and wildlife of Illinois since 1991. The Illinois Raptor Center is a 501(c)(3) private nonprofit organization. For more information about the Illinois Raptor Center, or to donate, visit illinoisraptorcenter.org.

About Ameren Illinois

Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 806,000 natural gas customers in Illinois. Our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally-responsible manner. Our service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com or find us on Twitter @AmerenIllinois. To learn more about Ameren Illinois wildlife protection initiatives, visit Ameren.com and click the environment tab.