WARNING: Some of the things described are graphic and upsetting, and include animal neglect, death, and mistreatment. I have tried to keep things as benign as possible.
Long story short, the Prairie
Center in Lawrence, Kansas
has been neglecting and improperly caring for its animals for years.
The staff have no power to do anything
about it, as the supervisor (i’ll call ‘MB’,) rules the place with an iron fist and
promptly fires anyone who would question her authority or care for the animals.
One person lasting only 3 weeks before being fired, strangely after bringing up
a bad fungal infection of the Iguana. That person tried to treat it, and since they are gone it is not being treated anymore.
The rose tailed boa was caged improperly,
and received severe burn scars all down its back, resulting in great difficulty
in shedding its skin. (I do not have a photo at this time and can not go get
one, but if you go there, its the snake in the hallway by the bathrooms).
The lovely Asian box turtle that was
donated to the center by a teacher (a tropical animal), was put in an improper
pond under the direction of the supervisor. It died within a week.
At least six of the birds at the center
need beak and talon care. This is a picture of one of the worst examples: The
beak getting caught stuck open from being too long. The supervisor does not
allow anyone but herself to do this, and has proclaimed repeatedly
that “we are just too busy” to justify the neglect. I know there has since
been significant down time, and the birds are still neglected. Other birds
include a Red Tailed Hawk, a Barred Owl, a Screech Owl, a Scarlet Macaw, and an
To be sure that I was not overreacting, I
contacted the Minnesota Raptor center and shared pictures. Turns out that not
only are they being neglected, but the center is also violating multiple
federal regulations in regards to the birds housing and care.
The proper length of a bird’s talons must
allow it to rest its feet flat on the ground. As you can see, they are so
overgrown the toes can not touch the glove. If left unchecked, they can be at
risk of developing bumblefoot.
The screech owl, also with its beak
getting stuck open. The screech owls have also been caged improperly for years,
in the small cage in the corner o the picture with improper cover. Originally
three screech owls were in this cage, but they killed each other, likely due to
stress. Small owls are difficult to keep because they often hide their stress.
A picture of the scarlet Macaw, with its
beak and talons too long. Behind it you can see the screech owl cage. Speaking
of improper caging, many of the back cages not viewable by the public are
rotting away due to the plywood not being treated. In the past raccoons have
gotten into two of the cages and killed birds (A peregrine falcon and an owl).
While I hear materials have been bought to repair the cages, it still has not
been completed and is treated like a low priority despite having lost birds in
The bird in the picture cannot escape
because it cannot fly. But that also means that it is unable to defend itself.
The Peregrine falcon cage and one-eyed eagle cage suffer similar weaknesses.
When you touch the wood it crumbles in your hands.
The center is also used as a drop-off
location for rehab animals for the supervisor’s non-profit organization, where
rehab animals are improperly housed and the majority of the time die. A baby
great horned owl, considered a rehab animal is on public display despite being
against federal regulations, and an Opossum that is frequently handled and used
in programming is also a rehab animal that ‘will be released’, in truth
she never will be despite there being nothing wrong with her. They have done
this with multiple Opossums.
The city does not allow the center to
rehab animals despite it doing so on a regular basis, and the staff being
unwilling volunteers for the supervisor’s operation. The supervisor lives in
another city entirely, and will not drive all the way to the center if an
animal gets brought in when she is not working. So the staff is overwhelmed by
animals being brought in, phone calls, and etc for things that not only are not
their job, but that they do not have the training for. Mysteriously, no vets in
the town will serve the nature center, possibly due to the supervisor’s
knack for burning bridges.
Multiple times animals, particularly
turtles, were left in the back room to die with gruesome injuries (Hit by car, exposed bone, missing limbs, etc) because the supervisor ignored them
and no one else knew what to do/were not allowed to take them to a vet that
would know how. Most animals are euthanized (Via CO2), and fed to the other animals as
free food, despite this potentially exposing the animals to disease/parasites and making
the staff feel pretty awful. Not to mention she encourages using mice caught in mouse traps to be fed to the animals, and every square inch of the center is contaminated with heavy amounts of mouse urine and feces, including on animal care items such as food, bandages, and scalpels. The sanitary situation is not good.
The supervisor has also been seen handling the birds roughly, and the caging setup has resulted in fighting over food and injury. One of the bald eagles got taloned by another and got a serious infection that left her in a small kennel in the back for a month.
I want to hone in on the point that the
part time staff are great people doing their best, but they are overwhelmed and
mismanaged by their supervisor. Other staff have
done research and found that the animals have been found in similar states in
the past and that this is not a new problem. I can go on about other troubling aspects, but that is for another time. (like using boxes that held frozen rats for solar ovens cooking hot dogs by camp kids, yikes).
The Douglas County Conservation officer
was contacted, but as of this time there have been no reports of him going to
the center. And with hunting seasons on the horizon it is doubtful he will. The
Fish and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement office was contacted, but are understaffed
with only ONE person in the entire state, and thus any inspections, let alone
reports of someone violating their bird of prey permit is a low priority.
In truth, I am at a loss at what to do now beyond just spreading the word. The people with enforcement powers have no interest or time, so the cycle of neglect just continues on and on.The birds of prey should be confiscated from the center, and the supervisor fired. The city knows of the problems but due to the nature of the three strikes protection, will not do anything about the behavior.
Spread the word on social media, contact who you think could help. Reblog if you can. If you are a Lawrence, Kansas resident, contact the local CO officer and see if you can get action done. Tip off a local station that you think will care more about the situation, feel free to use my photos to do so (keep me anonymous please).
I also want to make it clear, please do not harass the staff at the center in any way. They are helpless and they just want to keep their jobs. The center is a wonderful place, it is just currently bent to the will of someone who is not interested in caring for the animals anymore.
A mini update: Turns out that the supervisor anticipated that they would be reported over a month ago upon being told some of these pictures were being taken, yet still has made no move to remedy the situation. This is frustrating.
Is this current? I live relatively close to here and can spread locally
I grew up in Wichita, have several friends in the area as well who might be able to help
@indirispeaks @madprogressive Still recent. And I have an update. Fish and Wildlife called after getting the very first report, but after being told PPNC passed a USDA inspection recently they didn’t investigate further. This was expected due to his reluctance to even address the issue when it was reported. This was also before more picture evidence was sent. It should be noted that USDA inspections only include mammals, and that none of the birds or their conditions were inspected.
PRAISE THE SUN THEY FINALLY TOOK CARE OF THESE POOR BIRDS, IT ONLY TOOK THEM 4 MONTHS TO DO IT.
So despite my excitement, while the beaks and talons were done, other stuff was not, and there are still multiple federal violations. After some discussions, it may be the iguana does not have a fungus infection, but rather a burn from improper lighting in his cage. We will not know for sure until it gets looked at, though likely that is never.
If you can, still please spread the word about this place. They are targeting more staff, it sounds like the supervisor has one accomplice in this culling of those who care about the animals. They know they are in the wrong, that’s why they are trying to remove people who care. They have been doing this for years, it needs to end.
Timestamp of the most recent reblog is Sept 22, 2018. OP, do you have any updates since then?
I made some comments for suggestions before this reblog. The best route you can go for getting this addressed is to focus solely on the birds covered by the migratory bird act (the raptors, not the parrots). These are federally protected animals and mistreatment to this extent is in felony territory. The problem is US Fish & Wildlife is the federal agency that enforces protections on birds, but it seems they are looking at USDA inspections focusing solely on mammal habitats and not investigating based on that. If anybody on the inside can photograph any papers or documentation of the deaths of the birds that have occurred as a result of neglect, that makes a much stronger case for fish & wildlife—they would be hard-pressed to ignore that. Somebody needs to send them these photos along with the date they were taken, and make a phone call. Emails and webforms aren’t urgent enough. I’m not a witness, so I can’t make this call, otherwise I would.
I sent a note to the wildlife rescue in my area asking for their suggestions. They will probably say to notify fish & wildlife…
I located a chapter of master naturalists in Johnson County [link]. I don’t know how much influence they can have, but getting more people on this issue will help. Master Naturalists are a great resource, BUT I’m not sure what they can do beyond actions as individual citizens. They can place pressure on the city to act, especially if the paid employees of this place are city employees. If there is an Audubon Society group (there SHOULD be), contact them too. And let me stress again, these need to be phone calls, emails will not work.
Contact the news, see if they will do an investigation. Look up where this place gets its funding, send those agencies and donors these photos. Find out what certifications and licenses this place needs to stay open to the public, contact whoever renews them.
If nothing else, file a police report. This qualifies for animal cruelty which is against state law. Get them hit with so many fines they can’t stay open.
These are some ideas. It’s a lot, but you might be able to get help from local naturalists. And us naturalists can be a pain in the butt.
Good luck. Wish I could do more. 🙁
October 23, 2018
Austin Wildlife Rescue says call the game warden!
Here is their contact info:
Law Enforcement Supervisor
Topeka Regional Office
300 SW Wanamaker
Topeka, KS 66606
Note: only call them if you have directly witnessed the condition of these birds yourself (or if you are reporting on behalf of a person who has). Keep in mind, this is to report a federal crime, and there can be legal repercussions if it turns out you were reporting because you saw a blog post, even if you just wanted to help.