September 12, 2007

Raptor Rescuer

Bill Streeter ’74, who heals injured birds of prey, will bring some to Homecoming presentation

The splendor and majesty of a soaring red-tail hawk is a treat many people miss. Bill Streeter ’74 works hard to change that.

“People drive down the road and don’t even see raptors,” he says. “After a program with us, they do. It can brighten someone’s day.”

Streeter will give a presentation at Oechsle Hall 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, as part of Homecoming, featuring live eagles, owls, and hawks.

“[Raptors] have beauty, they have grace, they have speed,” he says. “Each individual bird has its own personality. They seem to live life completely on their own terms.”

Streeter and his wife, Stephanie, founded the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC) in Milford, Pa., in 1976. The educational nonprofit is devoted to rehabilitating injured birds of prey such as falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls.

The center treats around 100 raptors annually. About half are released, 25 percent die or must be euthanized, and the rest are placed in a setting for educational purposes. The center also treats other injured wild birds, including song birds, water fowl, and turkeys.

The most active environmental education organization of its kind in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, DVRC conducts 150-175 education programs annually, reaching more than 25,000 people. The educational component of the center is just as important as healing and releasing birds, says Streeter.

The most common cause of injury to the birds is being struck by cars. Streeter says raptors won’t fly away from a kill the way other birds do, so motorists need to be aware.

Streeter’s background as a biology graduate gave him the roots needed to grow into a strong teacher. He says Louis Stableford, head of the biology department at the time, helped teach him how to communicate.

“Not only did you have to learn the subject matter, you had to express yourself really well,” he recalls.

Streeter’s first biology test was just one question: “What is life? Explain in biological terms.” Three-quarters of the class failed, but he was one of the few who did well. He was also one of a handful of biology seniors to teach first-year labs to other students, an experience that helped when he was a teaching assistant earning a master’s in zoology at UMass in 1977.

“I was lucky as a student to have that opportunity,” he says.

Now Streeter gives raptors the opportunity to succeed. One of his favorite stories is the rehabilitation of a Pennsylvania bald eagle that came to the center afflicted with avian pox, an often-fatal disease.

“He was at death’s door — he couldn’t even stand,” he says.

After eight months of care, the bird was released and flew around a bend in a river. When Streeter followed, he saw the eagle perched in a tree, and two other eagles swooped down to join him.

“It was a pretty special moment to see the other eagles come to welcome him back into the wild,” he says. “Putting a bird back into the wild is the ultimate success story. You’re giving an animal a second chance.”

posted in Alumni

tagged with