About the American Wildlife Refuge
Our refuge was original called the Native American Wildlife Refuge and was started by John Barkas in 1971. The refuge was dedicated to promoting native american species , including birds, mammals, reptiles and more. John was a lover of animals and his extensive knowledge became the foundation of the NAWR. NAWR was asked to change from Native American Wildlife Refuge so it would not confuse people with American Indian / Native American run organizations, the name changed to The American Wildlife Refuge in 1976. The AWR applied for and attained non-profit status in 2001. That same year, John Barkas died, and the refuge changed to raptors only. In 2010, AWR got the legal names The Raleigh Raptor Refuge and The Apex Raptor Refuge, since both cities council's had voted to allow them to put up refuge parks in their city systems. Nether have been able to allocate lands or funds as yet, and realistically may not ever do so. We use the AWR name most of the time, but also use the Raleigh or Apex Raptor Refuge name to distinguish our specialty in handling and caring for raptors and identifying the refuge with it's home in the Raleigh-Durham area.
About John Barkas
As a child, John was always bringing home hurt animals. His family made him keep his 'hobby' outside, but he worked with all sorts of wildlife from a very young age.
As a teenager in the 1950's, John got his first hawk, a South American savannah hawk, by ordering it from the back of a comic book. During his military service as a medic, he also cared for animals, much to the distaste of his superiors. They stopped inspecting his footlocker after they found his cobra in it!
John also worked at the Tulsa Zoo doing animal care and solving problems for the animals. John spent many years traveling with various circus animal acts and learning about animal behavior and care. At one point, John spent 7 years at the Cleveland Aquarium. He was the curator of marine mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
John taught countless people how to handle and care for injured animals. It was his hope that the American Wildlife Refuge would be a haven for the animals he loved so much. In 2001 John passed away. In his lifetime John taught will over ten million people lessons with birds of prey.
Our current Director, Steve Stone
Our current head of rehabilitation is Steve Stone. Our founder, John Barkas had been training and working with Steve since the 1990's. Together, they completed the federal paperwork to create the American Wildlife Refuge as a charity. Steve worked with John until his death in 2001. Steve has both Federal and State certifications for the rehabilitation of migratory birds. He is involved with each and every injured bird that comes through the American Wildlife Refuge. Through his care and work, many orphaned or injured animals are returned to the wild, healthy and able. Steve has worked with many species of raptors that few in North Carolina have ever seen. Since he took over he as rehabilitated over 600 birds.
Steve is also licensed for educational possession of migratory birds. Steve brings his educational animals to thousands of children each year. To date his 1000+ education shows have been seen by aprox. 1.5 million people.
Steve has been teaching NC WIldlife officers and NC State Park rangers courses in raptor recognition, handling and behavior so they can better deal with the public and animals in the parks.
He also teaches a college course at Wake Technical Community College on Raptor Rehab. The course meets for 5 weeks, and is recognized by the NC Veterinary Board for veterinary continuing education, and by the US department of Interior for credit towards obtaining a raptor rehab license.
About Our Current Board of Directors
Chris Bowman - Public Relations, National Contacts, 15 years at AWR. Chris has been with AWR since before we applied for non - profit status. He has seen the changes and worked with them. Chris travels the country in his work, and meets many people interested in AWR.
Kelley Ferrante -Banking, Government Lending, 9 years at AWR Kelley knows the things that companies need to do to stay on business. Her years in banking have shown her the many things that bring down and improve companies futures. She helps us keep AWR going as a debt free business.
Dr Dan Johnson - Veterinary Services, 15 years at AWR. Dan has been doing raptor medicine for over 22 years. He runs one of the only 'exotic' specialty animal hospitals in the area. Dan's experience in the field is incomparable by any other local vets.
Dan Notch - Falconry, hunt & wildlife clubs, Signs, 10 years at AWR. Dan is a Master falconer, one of the few in the area qualified to hunt with Eagles. Dan knows about maintaining raptors long term. Dan also knows the local wildlife and hunting groups, and is friends with many wildlife and Army corps of engineers officers. He is a retired police officer, and knows many current officers as well.