The physical reconditioning of a raptor patient like The Raptor Center’s snowy owl patient from Washington, D.C., prior to its release is an important step in patient rehabilitation. It must compliment the medical care provided and restore a raptor’s fitness to a level necessary for survival.
Physical fitness has several levels, the highest being performance fitness. Competitive athletes, such as humans and racehorses, must achieve this level in order to be contenders for victory in their given sports. Raptors must also achieve this level before they are released to the wild in order to survive. Extensive research has been conducted to devise exercise programs that help animals reach the performance level of fitness most efficiently.
The Raptor Center has used the same science to develop a specialized exercise program for its raptor patients. Goals and benchmarks for normal flight mechanics, flight styles, and strength and endurance for each raptor species have been determined. As a raptor progresses through its reconditioning, it is assessed and adjustments are made to its exercise program if needed.
Lori Arent, clinic manager for The Raptor Center, also contributed to this post.