Lake Norman & Mooresville

Carolina Raptor Center raises awareness of the plight of vultures

Guests were allowed to get their picture taken with Oshem, a turkey vulture, during the International Vulture Awareness Day celebration.
Guests were allowed to get their picture taken with Oshem, a turkey vulture, during the International Vulture Awareness Day celebration. MARTY PRICE

Most people don’t like vultures, but Michele Miller Houck, associate executive director at Carolina Raptor Center, wants people to know how much they help us and why we should help them.

“We are trying to bring awareness to the plight of vultures in the world. In places like India, the vulture population has crashed and it is really bad for the health of the entire country,” said Miller Houck.

“Vultures are nature’s garbagemen. When things die and they sit out, vultures will come and get them and clean them up; making all that rot and potential disease go away,” she said.

The Raptor Center celebrated International Vulture Awareness Day on Sept. 5, when families were encouraged to make their own “vulture slime” from glue and borax to take home and play with. In addition to the vulture feeding in the Vulture Culture area, visitors were treated to the last flight show of the summer.

“The Talons: RSI (Raptor Scene Investigation) Flight Show” in The Amphitheatre starred three vultures among the cast of birds in the murder mystery. A black vulture named Bonsai flew in at the beginning of the performance, piquing the crowd’s curiosity at what would happen next.

Pishi, a king vulture and the most colorful of the vulture residents, made an appearance during the show. Guests stood in line to have their pictures taken with Oshem, the turkey vulture, after the show.

Miller Houck wants the public to know that, even though the summer programs have ended, there are still many activities going on at the Raptor Center.

Every Saturday and Sunday, there are programs such as Meet the Raptors, where docents are present with birds on the glove; Vulture Feeding; and the popular Raptor Trail experiences, which will continue, weather permitting.

There are other special programs planned throughout the year. On the first full weekend each month, docents give a behind-the-scenes tour of the Raptor Center’s Jim Arthur Raptor Medical Center.

With the goal to return injured raptors to the wild, Miller Houck said, “We are the largest raptor hospital in the country, possibly the world.” Adding that the hospital takes in 900-1,000 birds per year. “Seventy-five percent of birds brought to us survive the first 24 hours, 70 percent of those are releasable,” she said.

The Raptor Center is not a sanctuary but has 100 permanent residents that it uses for educational purposes, teaching visitors about conservation issues throughout the world.

Marty Price is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

The Carolina Raptor Center is located at 6000 Sample Road, on the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve in Huntersville. Current hours are 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Starting Nov. 1, the center will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until Feb. 28.

Admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors over 65, educators with a valid ID and active military members; $6 for students, including college students with a valid ID; and free to children 4 and under.

For more information on the Carolina Raptor Center go to: