Louisiana isn’t just a sportsman’s paradise it’s a birders paradise. Maybe even an animal lover’s paradise.
There are 25 rare bird species tracked by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:The American Oystercatcher, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the swallow-tailed kite, the Crested Caracara. Some good news: the bald eagle, is no longer threatened.
So, who is doing the protecting? Well, it’s not just Wildlife and Fisheries. The effort takes some civilian help. The state permits people like Julie Rabalais to operate avian rehabilitation facilities to rehab injured birds that are federally protected.
Through her nonprofit, For the Birds of Acadiana, Julie has rescued and rehabilitated 1,200 birds. The work is meticulous. She cares for dozens of birds at a time, sometimes feeding them every 15 minutes for 12 or 14 hours a day.
Before her life in bird rehab, Julie ran a clothing boutique and is also a master gardener. Julie grew up in Michigan but moved to Lafayette in 2004.
Some animals need attitude rehabilitation. Aggressive or fearful dogs can be problematic not just for their owners but for other people. These are pets most likely to end up in the care of animal control.
You might think, “Well, don’t they need a little bit of tough love?” Not so, says Vikki Bourgeois. Vikki specializes in “positive reinforcement” training methods that she offers through her company Sit Happens.
Vikki is one of only three Certified Behavior Consultants in the state of Louisiana and a Certified Trick Dog Instructor among accreditations.
Sit Happens is based in Scott, where Vikki offers “board and train” programs. She’s also a veterinary technician and was born and raised in Gonzales.
Out to Lunch Acadiana is recorded live over lunch at Tula Tacos and Amigos in downtown Lafayette. Photos by Astor Morgan. You can also hear more lunchtime conversation about rescuing birds in Acadiana.