“Jacques is the heart of the Illinois Raptor Center”
In every city you can find an animal shelter or humane society to care for dogs and cats. But when it comes to caring for orphaned or injured wildlife, especially birds, the shelter they need is nonexistent or few and far between.
I am Jane Seitz, founder and director of the Illinois Raptor Center (IRC). The IRC started in my garage in the late 1980's. I never wanted a home-based operation. I wanted a facility that would continue caring for wildlife long after I’m gone. Today the IRC is a 25 acre nonprofit that has served the wildlife and people of Illinois since 1991. The IRC admits around 250 raptor patients to its wildlife hospital yearly.
I quit work at age 42 to care for wildlife. Many people say I have accomplished so much in 25 years. I can only tell them that if it weren't for a 19 year old boy that joined me as a volunteer in 1991, the IRC wouldn’t be what it is today.
Jacques Nuzzo was a Boy Scout. He started teaching nature studies at camps at a young age. He loved nature and had great passion and knowledge of birds and insects, plants and fungus, trees and fish.
It was Jacques that rescued an injured bird and brought it to me in 1991. It only took one visit to my garage full of wildlife to get Jacques hooked. If there is such a thing as fate, then I would have to say, that is why we met. I cannot tell you in so few words what he means to the IRC. He has become the heart of the organization.
Jacques created our wonderful Education on the Wing Presentations, he makes our raptor handling equipment, plans and builds the bird living areas, weathering boxes and perches. He has become a Master Falconer and is a perfectionist at keeping birds feather-perfect and healthy.
He began a program call “Nestque” in which he uses his rope climbing skills to return baby raptors to their nests with trail cameras confirming the parents are returning. He has discovered several activities that haven’t been documented before.
I have yet to find equipment that Jacques can’t fix. But before we had equipment, you could find him behind a wheelbarrow, shovel, mower or weed eater. I have seen him covered in dirt and grease, tired and cold, sweating and overheated but he keeps going 7 days a week, all year long.
Fitting into the mold has never been Jacques’ plan. The IRC is now a one of a kind. And I am not a born leader but the IRC has partnerships with great organizations because Jacques Nuzzo is a born leader.
Now at age 44, Jacques has spent over half of his life caring for wildlife at the IRC. At 5’3”, Jacques is the tallest man I know. Someday when I'm gone I know Jacques will continue to lead this rare life – it was just meant to be.
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