History & Accomplishments

Two vets working on an animalIn the early 1970s, The Raptor Center co-founder Dr. Gary Duke, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, was conducting research on the digestive efficiency of grain-eating turkeys. Co-founder and current director Dr. Patrick Redig was a sophomore veterinary student who would later become a graduate student working with Duke on a Ph.D. in avian physiology. Four baby great horned owls changed the fate of both.

Brought to Duke by one of his veterinary students, the owls offered Duke an opportunity to expand his research to include avian meat-eaters. The soft baby owls, with their large yellow eyes, also captured his heart.

As Duke sought additional owls for his study through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Redig, an avid falconer, offered to care for the resident owls as well as other birds not needed for research. Over time, he began to repair their injuries and return them to the wild. In the process, Redig pioneered the avian orthopedic and anesthetic techniques that are used by avian veterinarians today. He also began using live, non-releasable birds of prey to educate the general public about raptor behavior, habitat, and threats to their survival.

A wonderful story about TRC's founding fathers, Drs. Duke and Redig, was featured in our 40th anniversary issue of our Raptor Release newsletter.  The story is also featured below.  founding fathers story1

founding fathers story 2Today, the magic of raptors makes it possible for The Raptor Center’s educational programs to reach more than 150,000 annually.

The seeds of what today is known as The Raptor Center took root in 1974 in Haecker Hall, a building on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Since then, much has been accomplished:



The Raptor Center began receiving an annual grant of $5,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support its veterinary work with endangered species such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. 

1980 - 1989

1980 - 1989


The Raptor Center compiled the first edition of Medical Management of Birds of Prey, which detailed the medical and surgical techniques he developed for birds of prey. Revised in 1993, the book is still considered a definitive guide to raptor medicine and surgery, and is used by avian veterinarians all over the world. Dr. Redig and the Raptor Center staff are currently working on another edition of this book.

1982 redig and tordoff

Pat Redig of The Raptor Center and Bud Tordoff of the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum of Natural History launched the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project. In cooperation with the Nature Conservancy and the falconry community, Redig and Tordoff obtained peregrine chicks that were bred in captivity and released them into appropriate nesting sites on buildings, smokestacks, bridges, and cliffs. In 1981, there were two known nesting pairs of peregrine falcons on the Midwestern North American continent, southeastern Manitoba, and the Lake Superior basin of Ontario. As of August 2003, there are 144 nesting pairs in 9 Midwestern states and adjoining Canadian provinces. The peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list in 1999. 


The Raptor Center developed a sensitive and accurate diagnostic test for aspergillosis, the most common fatal disease of raptors. 


The Raptor Center staff and birds moved into a new, state-of-the-art facility constructed with funds donated by Don and Louise Gabbert of Minneapolis, Minn. The $2.5 million, 21,000-square-foot facility allowed the Raptor Center to further develop rehabilitation, education, research, and conservation activities. It is the only facility of its kind in the world. 

1990 - 1999

1990 - 1999


  • The Raptor Center established a three-year veterinary residency program in raptor medicine. It is the only such program in the world. 
  • The PUF Raptor Professorship endowment was established with gifts of more than $25,000 from Katherine B. Andersen, Sarah J. Andersen, Bruce C. Dayton, the Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust, Mardag Foundation, Solly Robins, and the Donald Weesner Estate. Original gifts totaled more than $258,000 and have grown to over $612,000. 


  • Lead was banned for hunting waterfowl owing to the research by Dr. Redig that showed a link between lead poisoning in eagles admitted to the Raptor Center and the ingestion of spent shot in waterfowl carcasses. The actual ban came about as a result of a lawsuit by the National Wildlife Federation for which Redig served as an advisor to the legal team. 


  • Redig was appointed to the California Condor Recovery Team, based out of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento, CA. In 1985, the California condor population had been reduced to 26 birds, of which only 9 remained in the wild. Birds were brought into captivity and were bred and managed by the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo. Due to the continued impact of lead poisoning, re-entry to the wild was challenging. On April 11, 2002, for the first time in 18 years, a California condor egg laid in the wild was hatched in California's Ventura County. On November 8, 2006, the Raptor Center admitted a young, wild-hatched California condor for treatment of a wing fracture; the bird was successfully released at the Grand Canyon after treatment. 
  • The University of Minnesota Press published Raptor Biomedicine II, a book for which Redig was senior editor. Resulting from an international symposium held in Minneapolis in 1988, the book contained contributions from raptor veterinarians and biologists in 10 countries, from the United States to the United Arab Emirates. 


  • In collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Raptor Center produced “Hunters of the Sky,” a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that provides a closer look at eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and vultures and challenges visitors to confront their values and choices that threaten these extraordinary creatures. This award-winning project was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities; it toured for over 10 years before being permanently installed as an exhibit in Amarillo, TX. 
  • In order to support the Raptor Center's clinical work, The Raptor Rehabilitation Endowment was established with gifts in excess of $25,000 from Katherine B. Andersen, Harriet S. Lykken, and an Anonymous Donor. This endowment has grown to $955,000. 


  • Redig developed the tie-in fixator, a combination of internally and externally applied linked devices that stabilize fractures during healing. This device revolutionized orthopedic management of fractures in birds. 
  • A new field study was begun when the Raptor Center began using satellite telemetry to monitor the migratory routes, stopover sites, and wintering grounds of ospreys, bald eagles, and Swainson's hawks nesting in North America. This educational tool integrated into a classroom and Web-based environmental education program called Highway to the Tropics. This research resulted in Audubon adding several locations to its Important Bird Areas listing. 

1996raptors in captivity book cover

  • The Raptor Center published Care and Management of Captive Raptors, a manual now used as the standard by many state and federal wildlife management agencies. In January 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that all individuals and organizations holding permits for raptors must comply with the standards specified in Care and Management. A revision of this book was published in 1997. 


  • Dr. Elizabeth Stone completed her residency and graduate program with Redig as her faculty advisor. Her research on reproductive behavior and endocrinology of cockatiels improved understanding of reproductive behavior and mate choice in companion birds leading to improved methods of managing behavioral problems.


  • Dr. Jannette Ackermann completed her residency and graduate program under Redig’s tutelage. Her research related to surgical repair of elbow luxations in raptors led to medical and surgical protocols for effectively treating this type of injury in birds. 
  • Raptor Biomedicine III was published as a 10-year successor to Raptor Biomedicine II. Redig was an editor and the organizer of the symposium held in South Africa from which the papers published in this book were derived. 


  • The Raptor Center engaged in a study of lead poisoning in bald eagles along the Mississippi River. Redig had initiated a program of testing bald eagles for lead in 1976 such that every eagle admitted was evaluated. Over the years, the data painted a very clear picture of significant morbidity and mortality among eagles from lead poisoning, the source of which was spent ammunition in killed game and residues left in the field. The thrust of this effort was to gain a sense of the prevalence of exposure to eagles to lead at the population level. The results were astonishing — 80% of eagles trapped and assessed had elevated lead residues in their blood. This added considerable momentum to efforts that continue to this day at the Raptor Center to reduce the exposure of eagles to lead. 
  • A substantial gift from longtime supporters Doug and Wendy Dayton established the Patrick T. Redig Professorship in Raptor Medicine and Surgery at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. 
  • The peregrine falcon was removed from the Endangered Species List, a milestone in endangered species management success, contributed in large part by the work done by the Raptor Center and Tordoff in re-establishing the peregrine in the Midwestern states.

2000 - 2010

2000 - 2010


  • Dr. Richard Jones, from Wales, completed his residency and graduate program with Redig as his faculty advisor. His graduate work focused on the development of a surgical process to perform endoscopy-guided vasectomy in immature birds. This process is now utilized in hybrid falcons to prevent reproduction and in young male cockatiels to prevent behavior problems.


  • Redig received the Conservation Award from the Association of Avian Veterinarians for lifelong dedication to improving the welfare of the avian population.
  • Dr. Jalila Abu, from Malaysia, completed her residency and Ph.D; Redig served as her faculty advisor. Her research on the use of demineralized bone matrix in avian orthopedics has contributed to a growing body of knowledge used in both human and veterinary fracture repairs.
  • West Nile virus swept across the Midwest, killing wild and captive birds in significant numbers, including many endangered birds managed in captivity. In collaboration with collaborators at the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, Redig began an effort to test and license a recombinant-DNA vaccine product developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which has already proved effective in test studies.


  • Redig named chair of the Lead Mitigation subcommittee for the California Condor Recovery Team. He was invited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to head up an initiative to mitigate lead poisoning in California condors in southern California and Arizona. In addition to the California Condor Recovery Team, project partners included the California Fish and Game Department, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports, Safari International, and Wildlife Management Institute.
  • Dr. Arnaud Van Wettere, a veterinary resident from Belgium, completed his clinical residency and graduate program. His research involved analyzing the elements and configuration of the tie-in fixator for fracture repair and optimizing the hardware used in this device.


  • Dr. Miguel Sagesse, a veterinary resident from Argentina, completed his master’s thesis on West Nile virus vaccine and transfer of maternal antibody.
  • The Raptor Center’s environmental education program, begun by Redig, extended its reach through a partnership with the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow program. Grants supporting two Promise Fellows allowed The Raptor Center to connect with underserved children, create a youth service-learning program and expand volunteer roles.

2005 raptors book cover

  • Raptors in Captivity: A Guide to Care and Management, collaboratively written by The Raptor Center staff, was adopted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as their standard on captive raptor management.


  • The Raptor Center’s professional education is expanded to include raptor care professionals and veterinary technicians. Based on 30 years of experience and two books, an annual workshop on the care and management of captive raptors is begun for raptor professionals. Also, wet-lab and on-line classes for veterinary technicians in avian and wildlife medicine are begun.
  • The University of Minnesota honors Redig for his pioneering work in avian orthopedics with the inclusion of the fixator that he developed on the Wall of Discovery, located along the Scholar’s Walk.


  • Redig retires as Director of The Raptor Center to refocus his efforts on conservation and ecology.
  • Dr. Julia Ponder named Executive Director of The Raptor Center.
  • The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine presents Redig an award for excellence in service.
  • The bald eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List, another milestone in endangered species management accomplished in no small part by the 30+ years of work in rehabilitation, informing of public policy, public education, and research conducted by The Raptor Center.


  • The Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association awards Redig their Outstanding Faculty Award.
  • Redig named Chair of Midwest Peregrine Society, responsible for continuing monitoring of the peregrine falcon population in the Midwest.
  • The Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association awards Redig its Outstanding Faculty Award for Service to the profession.
  • Funded by grant from LCCMR (Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources), The Raptor Center developed tools for monitoring health data from wildlife.
  • Duke Lecture Series inaugurated - lectureship endowed by William and Betty Holleman in memory of Dr. Gary Duke.


  • Spanish language program developed to expand reach of The Raptor Center's education programming
  • Clinic equipment upgraded thanks to a challenge grant from the Katherine B Andersen Fund of the St. Paul Foundation. Among other clinic equipment, digital radiograph machine was acquired

2010 - present

2010 - present


  • Dr. Luis Cruz completed his residency. His research projects included investigation of lead exposure from ammunition sources in bald eagles and stress hormone analysis in great-horned owls.
  • Building on work done through the LCCMR grant (2008), the Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative was launched. The long-term goal of this initiative is to create a network of rehabilitation centers tracking population and health data of animals seen in wildlife clinics.
  • With a grant from the Association of Avian Veterinarians, The Raptor Center conducted a study of the use of MRI to localize brain lesions from lead toxicity in bald eagles.
  • Dr. Julia Ponder received award from Association of Avian Veterinarians for outstanding service and commitment to advancing and promoting avian medicine and stewardship.
  • Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, and Island Conservation asked The Raptor Center to work with them to design and implement a mitigation plan to protect Galapagos hawks during a project to eradicate invasive rats on ten small islands in Galapagos. This work continued into 2011.


  • Two new workshops were held: Basic Raptor Rehabilitation (4 days) and Advanced Avian Orthopedics (1 day)
  • The Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative completed a study looking at the prevalence of lead toxicity in five species of birds.
  •  Gail Buhl, education program manager, Received the Roger Tory Peterson Award for Excellence in Interpretation.
  • Morris Animal Foundation awarded The Raptor Center a grant to assess the impacts of crude oil on reproduction of migratory birds in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


  •  Dr Redig was given the T.J. Lafeber Avian Practitioner of the Year Award at AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) conference.  This award is presented to an outstanding practitioner who is advancing the quality of health care for companion birds. 


  • Minnesota Construction Association awarded Graham Construction the 2016 Award of Excellence for Renovation, Expansion, Or Tenant Improvement Project.  This is for the education and rehabilitation bird housing at TRC.

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