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Owl Moon Raptor Center
Boyds, Maryland 20841

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Shelby the Education Vulture

Turkey vulture Shelby training on a handler's falconry glove inside a mew. Owl Moon Raptor Center.

In September 2023, a turkey vulture named Shelby came into our care after being illegally hand-raised and set loose by unpermitted individuals. Due to her upbringing, Shelby imprinted on humans becoming reliant on their care and unable to thrive in the wild. Owl Moon got the call and retrieved Shelby from a neighbor’s property where she was playing with their deck pillows! Early this year, the team decided that she was a perfect candidate to become an animal education ambassador. Three handlers volunteered to set up a weekly schedule of trust-building and command-following exercises as well as falconry glove, target, and crate training. With time, patience, and repetition, Shelby became eager to fly to her handlers when prompted and eventually grew comfortable flying to new people as well. Shelby's affectionate personality and willingness to accept people endeared her to every person she met.

Once Shelby was trained, the time came to place her with an education program. Luckily, the Animal Care Center at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay was looking for an unreleasable raptor to bring into their education program and Shelby was the perfect fit. Shelby's handlers drove her to Florida–a journey of 17 hours overnight during her usual resting time–arriving on June 14. Upon arrival, Shelby was brought to a small room and released from her crate for a bittersweet goodbye. Shelby immediately hopped onto the handlers' arms, welcomed their kisses and keel rubs, and then turned to her new home to begin an adventure-filled life as an animal ambassador. In her time at Owl Moon, Shelby changed many peoples’ perception of vultures. Some see vultures as intimidating birds perched on animal carcasses when they are actually highly intelligent, social creatures that clean our world. Shelby’s work began at Owl Moon, but in her potential lifetime of 25 years there is no doubt she will educate many.

Credit: Rebecca B

Our Impact This Year

  • Birds Admitted in 2023


  • Volunteer Hours Rescuing, Rehabilitating, and Releasing in 2023


Owl Moon Raptor Center
Owl Moon Raptor Center
Boyds, Maryland 20841