(WHTM) — The first Saturday in September is International Vulture Awareness Day. Two species of vulture live in Pennsylvania-the turkey vulture, and the black vulture. One black vulture, in particular, is a local celebrity.
Baron Von Vulture, a member in good standing of Mother Nature’s cleanup crew, lives and works as an animal ambassador at Raven Ridge Wildlife Center.
“He was actually brought in to another center up north,” Tracie Young, rehabilitator at Raven Ridge said. “He was hit by a car, his one wing did not heal properly.”
The Baron could not be released back to the wild. But the rehabber that took care of him realized he had potential as an animal ambassador, and alerted other rehabbers.
“And I said we would take him, drove the hour and a half to get him, brought him back,” Tracie said.
The Baron had to adjust to a strange new world.
“He was afraid, he didn’t want touched, he didn’t want dealt with, so we gave him some time, and I started working with him every day,” Tracie explained. “I was the one who fed him, and cleaned his cage and started to read his body language. Eventually, he started warming up. And he’s been with us for the last two years.”
How do they know this is Baron Von Vulture and not Baroness Von Vulture? “The size. The size and the weight,” Tracie said. “With a lot of the birds of prey, the females are always bigger, and the males are smaller.”
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Tracie’s work with Baron Von Vulture has paid off. He is a huge success at Raven Ridge’s educational programs.
“As soon as you say vulture, everyone says ew, that’s gross,” Tracie said. “But when they meet Baron Von Vulture, he just radiates with personality. We save him for the last when we bring him out because he’s such a showoff. He is such a ham, that I can’t get him back into the crate until everybody leaves. People come up to me and say I had no idea how beautiful the vultures were. And how much of a personality they have.”
And people notice how well Tracie and The Baron get along.
“We have a bond. And it’s funny that a lot of people will tell us that at programs, that we have a bond, we have an understanding.”
“Vultures, in general, are overlooked, they’re misunderstood, but they’re so vital for our environment,” adds Tracie. Her advice for dealing with vultures? “Give them their space. They don’t really want to have anything to do with us, they were put here to do a job, that’s what they’re doing, but give them their space. Even if they are eating something in the middle of the road, give them a chance to at least walk off the road, or at least to get away.”