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der (OCD). “For them, a good time is a Friday night spent cleaning the house from top to bottom,” she said with a laugh. At Hawk Talk, Monteen’s a one-woman show. She cares for the birds of prey, but she also hits up people for money, a necessary part of her job she doesn’t enjoy. “We always need more mouse money,” she told me. “A live mouse costs about $.83, and some birds eat one a day and others eat six or seven, so you do the math…” We ventured to the shelters where the birds of prey live. I was instantly hypnotized by the owls’ big glowing eyes. Monteen gave me a leather glove and showed me how to hold a raptor — “like you are holding a beer,” she said. Then she perched a gentle barred owl named Fiona on my glove, and just like that, I was holding an owl. We walked down to another shelter and she fetched Cotton, a colossal great horned owl. “Those tufts on his head are feathers, not ears,” she said. “His ears are back here.”

She lifted the small feathers on the side of his head exposing tiny openings.

“The shape of his face helps funnel sound to his ears. Owls have extraordinary hearing,” she said. “And their eyesight is incredible, too.” Then Monteen began to transfer colossal Cotton to my glove, but Cotton didn’t like me. Cotton rebelled. Cotton’s talons were as big as my hand and his claws looked as sharp as razor blades. After a bit of a kerfuffle, Monteen regained control of Cotton and said, “Well, maybe you should just pet his back.”

And so I did. The visit to Monteen’s sanctuary was educational and helped me understand the heart of wildlife rehabilitators.

“It’s like the little kid tossing stranded starfish back into the ocean one at a time,” Monteen said. “Wildlife rehabilitators don’t affect the population dynamics as a whole — we just help one injured or orphaned animal at a time.” Monteen McCord says through her work saving birds of prey, she hopes to earn enough spiritual brownie points to get through the pearly gates.

She need not worry. Just like the other Monteen I knew, she’s earned her wings.

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