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Local News

Willowbrook Wildlife Center moves ahead with construction of new raptor house

The late Donna Jelf donates more than $200K toward project

On hand to recognize Donna “Ginger” Jelf’s donation to Willowbrook Wildlife Center are Scott Hardek (from left), president of the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County; friends board member Jennifer Martyn; Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore; district project planner Matt Adams; Jelf’s niece Jackie Miller; and Willowbrook Wildlife Center Manager Sandy Fejt.
On hand to recognize Donna “Ginger” Jelf’s donation to Willowbrook Wildlife Center are Scott Hardek (from left), president of the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County; friends board member Jennifer Martyn; Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore; district project planner Matt Adams; Jelf’s niece Jackie Miller; and Willowbrook Wildlife Center Manager Sandy Fejt.

GLEN ELLYN – Hawks, falcons and owls will have a new home at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center thanks to retired music teacher Donna “Ginger” Jelf.

“She loved wildlife, and she loved taking walks on the trails in the preserves,” said her niece, Jackie Miller, in a news release from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

Jelf, of Villa Park, passed away Nov. 5 at the age of 81. She donated $225,124 to the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for construction of a new raptor dorm at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

The dorm will house Willowbrook’s eight education raptors, permanently disabled birds that are part of the raptor outreach program, the release stated. The raptor house will feature 12 enclosures and a weathering area to provide the resident hawks, falcons and owls with enriching and visually stimulating experiences beneficial to their mental and physical well-being.

Construction is expected to begin in summer 2018 and finish by spring 2019.

“It was really important to my aunt to provide shelter and food to animals,” Miller said in the release. “She would be so pleased to know that her donation went to build a permanent structure for these birds.”

ComEd and other individuals have also donated to the raptor dorm project as part of Willowbrook’s 60th anniversary campaign in 2016.

“These donations will help us build a better home for our majestic education raptors, who serve a vital role in connecting people to nature,” Forest Preserve District Commissioner Tim Whelan, District 4, said in the release.

Over the course of 30 years, Willowbrook has presented more than 2,400 raptor programs to DuPage County children and adults, the release stated. Willowbrook also reaches more than 2,100 students and 400 adults through three formal raptor programs each year.

Willowbrook takes in more than 10,000 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians annually. It is the only publicly funded wildlife rehabilitation facility in DuPage County and one of the few in northeastern Illinois equipped to treat native and migratory birds, according to the release.

Several native animals with permanent disabilities live in enclosures along the center’s outdoor exhibit trail, including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, a turkey vulture, owls, red foxes, a bobcat, a groundhog, raccoons and opossums. Willowbrook is also home to two state-threatened sandhill cranes, who live in an enclosed wetland bird habitat at Willowbrook, the release stated.

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