Center News, Donor Impact, Raptors

An Inside Look at the Raptor Van

When the Center’s Raptor Program travels around in the community, you will see us in our custom raptor van. Bold images of our raptors, including Valkyrie, our Bald Eagle, adorn the outside of the van. This helps spread awareness of our outreach work. When we arrive at a school, the Wisconsin State Fair, or Eagle Day Festivals around the state, the vehicle will announce our presence and spark excitement for our birds and program.

This 2018 Ram ProMaster carries our birds and staff throughout the state of Wisconsin as we share our educational message with the public. The Schlitz Audubon Raptor Program presents over 350 programs a year. We do our presentations with 15 birds, including an endangered species and two Bald Eagles.

The van is one of a kind. The Center’s Facilities Manager, Jason Festerling and the Raptor Program Director, Lindsay Obermeier custom made the interior of the van. The needs of this vehicle are extremely specialized, so every aspect of the interior was custom crafted.

Components of a Custom Interior

After solidifying the design, Jason went to work and built the entire interior. It’s equipped with security features ensuring the birds’ safety and welfare while they travel to our education programs. He started with custom flooring that’s both insulated and textured to reduce slipping. The solid surface allows us to sweep out dirt or snow. He then insulated the interior walls and fitted them with side boards. A van of this model is only built for air circulation in the front. So Jason mounted fans in the back of the vehicle, with electric lines to the front driver seat, along with a control switch.

Our birds travel to various locations in travel crates. For their welfare, it’s imperative that their crates are secure and level while they’re in the vehicle. Jason installed shelves with steel mounts and welded supports to secure the crates. Jason designed a hinged shelf so that both of our eagle crates can fit side by side in the van if they ever travel together. He also installed a strapping system called Z-track. With this system, the straps, hooks, or loops are movable to various positions throughout the van. This allows the system to accommodate multiple uses.

Contributors to the Raptor Van Project

We are grateful to our core of raptor volunteers who, through a focused fundraising campaign, donated the funds to cover the full cost of the vehicle. We are also grateful to The Russ Darrow Automotive Group for providing Schlitz Audubon with a significant discount. They also gifted us the decorative wrap featuring three stars from our Raptor Program. The raptor van elevates our presence in the community as we continue to have the honor to bring raptors to your schools and events.