Mesa Verde Adenture,
Bird watching sanctuary and Release Site,
We are a Soft- Release Site for Birds under the guidance of Durango Wildlife Rehabilitation, licensed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The habitat at Willowtail Springs and surrounding acres affords an abundant place for birds to settle and thrive when they have had to be moved from their original home territories.
In 2004, we built a “hacking cage” to keep birds of prey for a short time while they adjust to our property before they are released. This cage is large, 7' x 7' x 8' and open on three sides [solid 1” wire mesh] with perches on two levels so the birds can see the area and imprint to this spot, which is rich with wildlife to eat, fresh running water and big sky. We feed the birds during their time in this inside/outside home. This is as close to human intervention as they should encounter. Their diet represents the food they will need to hunt in this area when they are on their own: live or dead mice, rabbits, bugs etc., depending on their breed.
One of the most exciting projects was fostering two Great Horned Owl babies as part of the Durango Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s Soft Release Program. Colorado Wildlife Law stipulates that these birds be released within one mile of where they were found or picked up. Otherwise, an appropriate location must be found where habitat is suitable and the available food supply is plentiful. Since these babies could not be re-released where they were found–Bodo Industrial Park in Durango next to a welding shop–the hope was that they would imprint here and safely be released when ready (about 2 weeks from when they were brought to us).
There was also a “foster parent” in the hacking cage. This bird was an adult great horned owl that was healing from an injury. He taught them to kill live prey which we supplied, to be afraid of humans and dogs, and otherwise help their chances of survival when they were released. After the babies were released from the cage the adult stayed a few days in the cage while the babies were learning to adapt outside. The hope was that he would “hoot” them back if they could not find food on their own. We left food on the outside “deck” for them during this time. We see them periodically with their new families. We are grateful for the gift of their presence during their short adjusting period and their seemingly successful facility to make this their wild home.
This program is part of Durango Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in concert with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
If you would like more information about this Colorado registered 501 C  Non Profit Organization, program, please let us know.
"Picture perfect! Fantastic lake view, artwork, nature, spa products, flowers and gourmet snacks.
As if that were not enough, you released a golden eagle with a 7 foot wingspan to top anyplace
we have stayed."
–Helen and Family, Princeton, NJ
"We could not imagine a more spectacular place to spend our honemoon. Thank you for the photo
of the golden eagle you released while we were there. I am sending you one of the osprey in flight."
–Sean and Anna, La Cienga, NM