Raptors & Endangered Species

Photo courtesy of ©Ron Brasington.

Raptors, also known as birds of prey, are carnivorous predators. They are characterized by their hooked bills, strong feet, sharply curved talons and large eyes. The hospital staff at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has been treating raptors and endangered species for more than 30 years. Thanks to a donation from BB&T bank, in 1996 a medical clinic designed specifically for the treatment of injured raptors and endangered species was constructed. Since then approximately 150 raptors have been treated each year. Owls, eagles, hawks, vultures, kestrels, kites, falcons and osprey are just some of the raptors that have been treated at the BB&T Clinic for Raptors and Endangered Species.

Our Mission

  • To provide primary care for injured birds of prey and native endangered species in order to return these animals to their natural habitats.
  • To work with local rehabilitation organizations to achieve the common goal of protecting our native wildlife.
  • To foster an appreciation for nature in the local community through education emphasizing the conservation of South Carolina’s wildlife and preservation of natural habitat.

Raptor Care & Treatment

  • The BB&T Clinic for Raptors and Endangered Species is operated by the Riverbanks Zoo hospital staff (two veterinarians, two registered veterinary technicians and two animal keepers). The team also relies on volunteers who donate many hours each year.
  • With provisions for managing critically ill patients, the clinic offers hospitalization, radiography, surgery, laboratory support, a pharmacy and outside holding areas. Patients are treated on a case-by-case basis and are often presented as a result of gunshot wounds or vehicular collisions. (Gunshot victims are reported to proper authorities.) Any birds exhibiting signs of West Nile Virus are tested for the disease. Once stable and eating well, patients take the next step towards eventual release through discharge to the care of a licensed raptor rehabilitator. The birds are then evaluated for their ability to survive in the wild and subsequently prepared for release, a process that can take from several weeks to several months.
  • The clinic is financed entirely by private donations and in-kind gifts of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and food for critical patients; the Zoo absorbs all other costs. Donations help further our mission of providing the best medical care possible for our patients.

What To Do If You Find an Injured Raptor

  • In the event you find an injured raptor or endangered species, you should first think of your own safety. Remember these are wild animals!
  • To increase the odds of a successful subsequent release, note the area where the animal was found.
  • You will need a towel, or some other cloth like material to cover the animal completely. You will also need a cardboard box with air holes or a pet carrier to transport the animal safely.
  • Slowly approach the animal from behind and cover the body and head with the towel. The animal may struggle but should calm down. *If it is a raptor, its bill, feet and talons are the main means of defense, so be careful!
  • Gather the animal into the box and secure the lid.
  • Transport the animal immediately to the proper animal health center. Those found in and around the Columbia area should be brought to the Raptor Clinic at Riverbanks Zoo. *Please note, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden cannot be responsible for transportation of these animals. If you have any questions about what to do or where to transport the animal, call 803.602.0814 or 803.602.0910.
  • While the animal is being transported, do not feed it or force it to drink, even though it may seem hungry and thirsty. Feeding an injured animal can severely decrease its chance for survival.
  • In case you find a baby raptor, do not assume it is an orphan! As long as it is standing up and is not injured or in immediate danger, do not pick it up. Many fledglings are mistaken for orphans. Their chance of survival is decreased dramatically if they are disturbed or relocated unnecessarily.
  • Under both state and federal law it is illegal for anyone to injure or possess a bird of prey. Only persons fully licensed by both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of S.C. may rehabilitate injured raptors.

How You Can Help

  • Your interest in helping injured wildlife is a critical step and we thank you for bringing injured raptors to us. The clinic is dependent on private donations, and we eagerly accept any monetary gifts as well as capital donations. If you are interested in supporting the BB&T Medical Clinic for Raptors and Endangered Species, please make checks payable to Riverbanks Society, 500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia SC 29210-8014. Be sure to designate your donation for the Raptor Clinic.