The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa Raptor Project reopens to public after fire kills four birds

A UI official said the investigation into the fire remains ongoing, with no cause of the fire known.
Jeff Sigmund
A Gyrfalcon poses for a picture at the Iowa Raptor Project on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.

After a fire at the Iowa Raptor Project killed four birds last week, the Solon wildlife site has reopened to the public.

A raptor enclosure caught fire on Feb. 16, killing the birds Cal, age 3, Isabow, age 24, Elsa, age 18, and Saguaro, age 16. At the site of the fire, Raptor Project staff put four boulders with red and white roses laid on top of them in front of the former enclosure to represent and remember the lost birds.

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David Conrads, the director of UI Wild, smiled as he said he remembered his times working closely with “sassy” Saguaro, as they called her. He said he feels he has lost more than the birds, considering the rich history of the space.

“I think that’s probably what hit me the most as we began moving from reaction mode, and all of the adrenaline, to now really contemplating what happened and grieving the loss,” Conrads said. “I’m thinking of not just the four that we lost, but all the others who shared that space and time.”

Conrads was on the scene in the early morning of the fire on Feb. 16, which he said was first reported after someone driving near the site saw the flames and called local officials. The fire was reported to officials around 4:24 a.m.

Hayley Bruce, UI’s Campus Safety Public Information Officer, said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and damage estimates are not yet available.

The Iowa Raptor’s Project has hopes of rebuilding the enclosure with donations from a Give to Iowa campaign.

“I think it’s very important for folks to know that these birds are in good hands and the future looks bright here,” Conrads said. “These birds serve as icons to tell the conservation story and we hope to continue to do that.”

Chris Shepherd, a Solon resident, visited the bird sanctuary with his family on Thursday after seeing news of the fire online. He wasn’t aware of the site until recently and said he was sad to hear the news of the killed birds.

The remaining birds are being monitored for any signs of distress, although Conrads said Thursday that the birds are doing well.

According to its website, the Iowa Raptor Project is aimed at connecting students and members of the community with the conservation of birds of prey. The project is jointly sponsored by Kirkwood Community College and the UI.

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