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Alberta Birds of Prey Centre reflects on 2020 season ahead of closing

An eagle at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, Alta. Eloise Therien / Global News

The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre will be closing its doors to walk-in visitors after Labour Day until it reopens in 2021.

The centre is a non-profit foundation in Coaldale that has been in operation for nearly 40 years, rehabilitating thousands of injured birds and offering interactive learning experiences to visitors.

Managing director Colin Weir said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about immense financial losses after they had to delay opening by nearly two months and cancel provincewide displays.

Read more: Alberta Birds of Prey Centre sees decline in visitors for 2019 season

“That’s well over a loss of about a $100,000 of revenue for us,” Weir said.

However, Weir said the push by Travel Alberta for Albertans to explore their own backyard has resulted in a good amount of local visitors going through their doors, despite a loss of international visitors due to travel restrictions.

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“We’ve been very grateful for the number of visitors that have come by. It’s been down a little bit,” he said. “We’ve seen quite an uptick in visitors from Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton as well.”

While the number of visitors saw a decline, Weir said phone calls to the centre have spiked since the start of the pandemic.

“Because people are spending more time at home — not at work, in their backyards, doing renovation projects — we’ve seen the number of calls for injured birds maybe triple or quadruple,” he said.

Read more: Alberta Birds of Prey Centre reopens following ‘unimaginably difficult’ months without visitors

Weir added the increase in calls likely isn’t due to more birds being injured, but rather that more people are finding them.

“A lot of the calls, the birds don’t necessarily need any help — people are just worried about them,” he said.

Weir said although the season was financially challenging, his eyes have been opened to the level of care Albertans have for the centre. He hopes next year will be back to normal.

The centre’s last day open for 2020 is Sept. 7.

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