MAPLETON, Utah — At first glance, Patti Richards’ home blends in with her Mapleton neighbors — until you step into the backyard.
Chirps and shrieks can be heard from the enclosures, where a talking crow named Earl and a baby owl are stretching and eating.
Richards is celebrating 15 years rehabilitating wildlife at her home in northern Utah, The Daily Herald reports. She rescues more than 100 birds each year including falcons, eagles and hawks.
The idea for the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue stemmed from her passion for birds and bears, she said. In addition to birds of prey, Richards and her team have also rehabilitated bears, bobcats and foxes.
Now, the rescue focuses on treating birds of prey and corvids such as ravens, crows and magpies.
The corvids are her favorite, Richards told the Daily Herald, because they’re so smart. She jokes about populating the town of Mapleton with talking crows. As she talked with Earl the crow and fed him a piece of food, he held it in his mouth and threw it to the side.
“Every single one of them has an attitude,” Richards said.
She said the majority of the birds are released back into their natural habitat once they’ve recovered from their injury or illness.
Federal law prevents the rescue from keeping the animals for longer than six months. At that point, Richards said they have to decide whether to release the animal, euthanize it, or find it a more permanent home. The rescue has relocated birds all over the country, from local places like the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City to a facility in upstate New York.
The rescue is also home to several education birds who work at schools, memorials and fundraisers.
A barn owl named Adele is one of their rescue birds; she came to the rescue to take over for Moonshine, an old male barn owl who started to fall asleep during educational programs, said Brittany Bugg, who volunteers at the rescue.
Richards said the rescue has received a lot of community support that has helped it continue to thrive. Boy Scouts helped build many of the enclosures and in return, rescue volunteers will bring eagles to Eagle Court of Honor ceremonies celebrating the completion of Scouting’s highest rank.