Spirited Creatures:  The innate presence and power of Rehabilitated Raptors

Animals are realists and react to their environment. They are survivors and seek harmony and balance. Even in captivity, their innate characters are not eradicated from their unique blueprint.

Ruby the red-tailed hawk

Owly the great horned owl, Gus the golden eagle and Ruby the red-tailed hawk are resident raptors at the Teton Raptor Center  — a rehabilitation, conservation and educational facility in Wilson, Wyoming. Each bird has a permanent disability which prevents them from being returned to their natural habitat. They’ve adjusted to their environment and daily routines but haven’t lost their instinctual understanding of their role as birds of prey.

As predators, they are authoritative. Their penetrating gaze is piercing. Their circumstances have been altered but they are reactive and present, just like their wild counterparts. They are not tame. We can simply admire their beauty or we can connect further and learn from their elemental strengths.

Virtually every ancient culture revered animals and considered them to be of divine origin, creating symbolism, rituals and methodology to embody animal spirits and their attributes of power, wisdom and healing. For example, some cultures believed that by embodying the spirit of the owl, you develop the ability to look deeply into your environment and hone your intuition. Owls represent inner wisdom and are believed to have psychic and clairvoyant powers. In Greek mythology, the owl was the messenger to Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

Owly, great horned own

Owly is a temperamental, 7-year old, female great horned owl. She was hit by a car and brought to the Raptor Center to be treated for her broken wing. Unfortunately, the damage was permanent and left her wrist without proper flexibility to fly.

Nocturnal by nature, Owly is akin to anyone awakened in the middle of a good nap. She is most active at night, like her wild counterparts, despite adjustments to her schedule during the day.


In the wild, owls’ impeccable vision and hearing makes them excellent hunters and trackers. Owly’s unflinching yellow eyes analytically pierce and penetrate. She seems skeptical of your presence. When you meet her unyielding stare, you may question yourself, “what does she know that I don’t?”

Gus the golden hawk

Gus is a beautiful 7-year old, male golden eagle. He’s never fledged, or taken flight. His right wing is permanently damaged, either from a birth defect or injury sustained at a young age. Despite this, Gus doesn’t know he’s different, according to his caretaker, Jason Jones. He doesn’t know he’s supposed to be performing acrobatic and athletic feats like his wild counterparts. On the contrary, he’s in his prime. He is curious, secure and adaptable.

Gus, the golden eagle

When you visit him, his head inquisitively swivels and twists in myriad directions, eager to evaluate your intentions. His giant wingspan and shimmering feathers are mesmerizing. It’s as if he knows he is a beautiful thing to admire.

As an eagle flies overhead, it perceives the entire panorama. So when you embody the spirit of the eagle, according to Native American culture, you learn to trust life from a higher perspective. Shamans call the guiding spirit of the eagle to assist those who need clarity and insight into their lives. Even though Gus can’t fly, he isn’t aware that he has a disability. He doesn’t doubt himself and exudes confidence. Eagles have the longest life spans of all birds and represent self-transcending, self-transforming abilities through their strength and athleticism. They are a universal symbol of power in the natural world as well as in governments and the military, appearing on several coats of arms and seals for numerous nations. Gus completely owns his space.

Ruby the red-tailed hawk came to the Raptor Center after she was hit by a vehicle in California. Head injuries sustained in the accident caused permanent damage to her eyesight. Ruby is nearly blind. Because she was mature at the time, her exact age is unclear. However, her behavior indicates she is the oldest of the birds at the Raptor Center.

Hawks are known for their keen eyesight. Despite Ruby’s impaired vision, she possesses an acute awareness. Her stare is direct and penetrating. Some cultures believe that if you tune into your inner hawk you will see the realities that lie beyond what is immediately apparent. A hawk-eye view of the world serves as a reminder to look at things from a macro perspective and rise above the surface of the situation. Ruby’s stoic, statuesque presence might remind you of your wise old grandmother.

Visit the Raptor Center to admire and learn from Owly, Gus and Ruby. It is rare to interact with these special creatures so closely, share their space and get up-close and personal. Even though it’s not their natural habitat, they own their territory inside the Center. Beyond their lasting impression, perhaps their presence will inspire you to listen to your inner owl intuition, trust your eagle strength or keenly observe with hawk-like vision.

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Lindsay Linton

Lindsay Linton is based in Jackson, Wyoming, where she specializes in portrait, editorial and commercial photography. Her multi-faceted background includes documenting the generational farming families...

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