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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Living the Dream and Helping Eagles Fly

Tuesday, July 19 2016

grey eagle perched on a wood stand

Dr. Paul Welch earned his DVM degree from OSU in 1981. Although he thought he wanted to work as a zoo veterinarian, he soon learned that it wasn’t quite what he had in mind. In 1983, he opened Forest Trails Animal Hospital in Tulsa, Okla. In addition to his regular clients, Welch volunteers his veterinary services for the Grey Snow Eagle House in Perkins, Okla.

“I have been working with Grey Snow Eagle House since the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma opened it in January 2006,” said Welch. “I visit the aviary in Perkins at least four times a year. The rest of the time, they bring the birds to me. I can pin a broken wing in about 30 minutes.”

In addition to the 1 ½ hours a month he spends helping eagles from the aviary, Welch sees about 500 wildlife cases a year.

“I have been able to do a tremendous amount of work with wildlife cases including raptors like the bald and golden eagles cared for by the Iowa Tribe,” added Welch. “I have to remind myself that not everyone gets to see a bald eagle up close in their lifetime. With the refuge housing about 48 bald eagles, I see them all the time. When one comes in the clinic, I try to remember to check the waiting room for clients. If there are any there, I invite them back. They are truly amazed at these magnificent birds.”

In addition to working with wildlife rehab cases, Welch has been involved with the Association of Avian Veterinarians serving as its president and on the board for 15 years.

“I think when we get out of vet school, we need to do something a little extra with our DVM degree,” he added. “Whether it’s wildlife rehabbers or SPCA volunteers, do something where it isn’t about the money but the animals we treat. Some 30 plus years later and I’m still living the dream.”

The Grey Snow Eagle House is the only facility in the country that possesses a combination of permits that allows it to carry out its mission—rehabilitation, religious use, education and research. Thanks to the volunteer work of Dr. Welch, injured eagles are treated and released back into the wild. Those unable to return to the wild are kept at the aviary where their naturally molted feathers are used in tribal ceremonies. Trained raptors help educate the public about the conservation of eagles, raptors and Native American beliefs. And research efforts support the conservation of eagles—our nation’s bird. For more information, visit the Grey Snow Eagle House website.