Conway raptor enclosures repaired, thanks to community support

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-26-2023 11:43 AM

BERNARDSTON — The Franklin County community continues to flock together to support raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi as he puts the finishing touches on repairs to his bird enclosures, which were destroyed by a fallen pine tree in February.

The latest round of support comes in the form of $423 that was raised through a donation drive spearheaded by Bernardston Elementary School third graders. The money was presented to Ricardi during an event at the school on Thursday.

“Kids have been great, the schools have been excellent and people are pouring in to help out,” Ricardi said.

Three enclosures at Ricardi’s Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway were ravaged by the fallen tree, which was uprooted during a storm. According to Ricardi, who has been rescuing birds of prey for more than 50 years, the tree damaged two cages and “flattened” another “pretty substantially.” One saw-whet owl and two great horned owls were killed as a result, while one peregrine falcon had to be moved to a different enclosure.

Ricardi was quoted a cost of $10,000 to remove the tree; this need was quickly met, with 333 donors contributing $21,688 toward a GoFundMe page as of Thursday afternoon. School groups began fundraising for the repair of the enclosures as well, with Conway Grammar School selling potholders, pinch pots and calendars to raise money. Ricardi was unsure of a grand total raised as of Thursday.

Inspired by the outpouring of support, Bernardston Elementary’s third graders decided to chip in as well. They set up collection jars throughout the school so people could donate change as well as larger bills. Ricardi accepted the $423 and gave a show for the students at Thursday’s all-school assembly.

“This was totally unexpected,” Ricardi told the students. “I am overwhelmed with your generosity.”

He announced that there are still a couple parts of the enclosures left to fix, but they are mostly back to how they were before the tree mishap.

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“We have everything just about back where it is supposed to be,” he said.

During the birds of prey show, he gave an environmental lesson to the students. Ricardi explained the “chain reaction” that occurs when people litter on roads. Pieces of litter will tempt rabbits, mice and squirrels out into the streets in search of food, which in turn leads owls and other birds of prey to swoop in and puts them at risk of being struck by vehicles.

That’s where Ricardi comes in. At his Conway sanctuary, Ricardi nurses injured birds back to health. He keeps the birds that are too injured to return to the wild and brings them on his birds of prey shows to teach children and the larger community to care about the birds and the environment.

The biggest takeaway he hopes children get from seeing a birds of prey show is that if they see animals in the wild, they should leave them be. Trying to hold them could cause more serious injuries to the animals and the people who try to help them.

Donors can send a check or money order to the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, P.O. Box 26, Conway, MA 01341.

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.

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