Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center a labor of love for Jaye Moore
Story by Kelly McKillip, from Living on the Peninsula magazine, Summer, 2011
The legacy begins
Saint, hero and legend are descriptors used frequently in any discussion about Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center director Jaye Moore. Growing up in the remote Clallam Bay-Sekiu area, Moore says there wasn’t a lot to do, so she turned her attention to the needs of the wildlife around her. Forbearing parents allowed their daughter to bring home animals to nurse back to health and soon she found herself washing oiled birds and performing other basic tasks as a volunteer at the local raptor center.
Those early acts of concern and care for wildlife were the seeds that developed into a quietly phenomenal 30-year record of achievement in rescuing and rehabilitating thousands of birds and animals ranging from baby hummingbirds to elk and restoring the local bald eagle and falcon populations.
Becoming a competent wildlife rehabilitator is a long process that is not for the faint of heart. The work is dangerous, dirty and demanding. There also are specific steps required by law. Moore apprenticed with a licensed mentor then passed written tests for a Washington State Wildlife Rehabilitator permit as well as a U.S. Migratory Bird permit.
The Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center is located on Moore’s family property in Sequim. The center had to be built to specifications and pass muster appropriate to each kind of animal cared for. Moore’s on-call hours have been 24/7 in all kinds of weather covering more than 4,000 square miles. She has been doing this work for nearly three decades without monetary compensation while raising her own two children with her husband, Gary, who Moore says has been 290 percent behind her all the way.
Working in concert with Moore are the local officers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the veterinarians and staff of Greywolf Veterinary Hospital in Sequim. Moore says she can not speak highly enough of the individuals in these organizations who provide critical support to her work.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for enforcement and investigations involving wildlife. Officers also help Moore by picking up animals and birds when she is unavailable to travel to the West End.
“I love Jaye — she’s the best and truly committed,” says Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Phil Henry when asked for a comment about Moore. “She fills a void. I could not do my job adequately without her. Not all are as competent as Jaye. She will do everything she can to save an animal but is also realistic when she needs to be. She has done this work for well over 20 years on her own dime.” Henry encourages the public to support her efforts.
Drs. Mike Tyler, Jennifer Tavares, Maya Bewig and the staff of Greywolf Veterinary Hospital have met Moore at their facility at all hours of the day and night to render medical aid to injured animals and birds without cost to the center.
“Jaye is a wealth of knowledge,” says Tavares. “She is fun and kind and I enjoy working with her. I call her for input on how well animals can be rehabilitated because she is grounded and has realistic goals. I can’t believe how much she and her family have been able to do with just a small group of volunteers. It’s exciting to have wildlife come in. I always learn something new.”
Last winter, Moore brought an eagle to Greywolf that had been shot in the wing. After Tavares removed the bullet, the bird recuperated in a special outbuilding at the hospital that had been built by center volunteers. The eagle has returned to Moore’s care for rehabilitation and there is every hope that the bird will be released back into the wild. The Department of Fish and Wildlife still is investigating the incident.
There have been some great volunteers helping out at the center over the years, but most eventually move on. The work is far too gritty and unappealing for most people. Community awareness and support had, for a long time, been very limited. Two years ago, all of that changed.
Matthew and Melissa Randazzo were new to Sequim and out on a walk when they encountered Moore rescuing an eagle near Lotzgesell Road. Astounded and deeply moved by this petite woman’s expertise at handling such a formidable creature, they subsequently sought her out. When they learned how much she accomplished on so little, they took it upon themselves not only to volunteer but to become her champions. Matthew took up the role as public relations director and Melissa became event and volunteer coordinator and fundraiser. Moore, who has never had time nor interest for this sort of activity, says with appreciation that the couple has brought the center to a whole new level.
Thanks to Matthew Randazzo, there are frequent articles in the press these days for center rescues and activities. Wildlife releases also are well-covered by the media and usually open to the public. Melissa Randazzo organizes appearances of bird ambassadors at local events such as Earth Day and the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival. The Moores, with the center’s dedicated volunteers, frequently spend all day at these venues, rain or shine, with the rehabilitated bird celebrities perched on gloved hands. The public has a rare chance to see wild birds up close, learn about their histories and the work the center is doing. Mesmerized onlookers and filled donation jars attest to the appeal of these events. School road shows are another activity the center uses to educate children about the importance of wildlife.
The goal for all the wildlife at the center is that they will be treated for injuries, rehabilitated, learn how to survive in their habitat if needed, and then released. For animals with debilitating injuries or inability to survive on their own, they will stay on as permanent residents, often becoming ambassador birds for the center. Each resident at the center costs about $1,000 annually to maintain.
Animals appropriate for release generally are not named but those that stay or possess special personalities are given their own handles. Although she cares for all types of wildlife, Moore seems to have a special affinity for raptors and quips that she has raised two human and three avian children in Sequim.
Her first bird adoption occurred during the days of the logger-versus-spotted-owl controversy. She had hoped that moving from Clallam Bay to Sequim she would find a different mentality and fewer owls nailed to trees by those who took out frustrations with their fellow humans on these creatures.
Unfortunately, her first call in Sequim was from a woman who saw something dangling from a tree. Moore responded, climbed the tree and found a live barred owl that had been mummified in string and hung by its bullet-riddled wing. She took the owl off the branch, wrapped it in her coat and clambered back down. Despite three surgeries the wing could not be saved, but the owl named, Miracle, survived and became her pet for 15 years. Ironically, none of the mutilated birds she encountered during those days were spotted owls.
The second winged child was Nelson, a golden eagle that had been hit by a car in Utah and could no longer fly. Moore says that being younger and more stubborn, she was determined to glove train the creature which possessed a 7-plus-foot wingspan and talons that easily could crush her arm. The effort took many, many months but Nelson rewarded Moore as a beloved pet for 25 years.
Another of her charges, dubbed Freddie the Freeloader, was a bald eagle that had flown into an electrical fence after picking up a duck. Moore felt more than her usual empathy for the bird as she also was shocked during the rescue and suffered pain in every joint of her body. She hand-fed Freddie until he was rehabilitated. A few weeks after the bird returned to the wild, Moore felt a tap on her head when she was outside working. She looked up and there was Freddie. The eagle had found a mate and would come by daily to dine and dash on the chickens that people throw over the fence. One sad day, Moore received a call about a wounded eagle. It was Freddie. He had succumbed in a territorial fight. Although Freddie had never brought his mate, she started to come and perch on Freddie’s branch, initially screaming, but eventually bringing her new partner along. Moore discovered the pair nesting near the Dungeness River this spring.
Looking toward the future
Moore is gearing up for the busy season. Late spring and summer are when many baby animals, including fawns, juvenile eagles and baby owls come into the center. Last year six fawns were rehabilitated and released. There will be lots for the volunteers to do, including the youngest, 14-year-old Shannon Gordon, who says she likes taking care of all the animals, although the birds are her favorite.
In addition to the care and feeding of the animals, enclosures have to be maintained and expanded.
Donations of lumber and chain link fencing always are welcome as is monetary support. But please, no towels or blankets at this time. They have about a five-year supply stockpiled already.
Moore very much hopes that the legacy spurred by her dedication to the wildlife of the Olympic Peninsula will continue. Ongoing community support is necessary to make that hope a reality.