People all over Wyoming and Montana are saving owls and falcons, one outhouse at a time. Hundreds of groups have joined the Poo Poo Project, which is based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Teton Raptor Center is taking it all over the country
The education manager holds two little owls on her glove, side by side. They are eastern screech owls, native to Wyoming. The birds are injured, and can’t be released. So, they’re used in educational programs at the Raptor Center. So is a beautiful Kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon.
Unfortunately, both species have one thing in common: they can get trapped in vault toilets when they are looking for a home.
The Poo Poo Project Coordinator, David Watson explained, “And if they see one of the vent pipes they may go down in there, and once they go down in there, they’re stuck.”
So, the little raptors often die, in human waste.
But, volunteers and workers at the Teton Raptor Center in Jackson decided to do something about the problem. They started buying and distributing screens for vault toilets on public lands in Wyoming and Montana. But, they were very expensive.
Watson said, “They were 100 dollars apiece.”
So, the Raptor Center found a better way.
Watson said they improvised, “We created this screen here, which is made out of steel…we were able to make and sell them for $29.95”
In 2013, the Center accelerated screen sales. They had covered half the country, so to speak, but this year, they finally covered the entire U.S.
Watson smiled, “We’ve sold 10,700 screens. We’re in all fifty states, and even in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we have over 375 partners.”
Watson said volunteers made the calls to bring in the partners. And, the volunteer effort is expanding, too. People are buying screens to give to agencies and people who can’t afford them.
He said, “We’ve sold over 800 screens through that program, and given away almost 700 screens so far.”
One of the latest screen shipments came to the city of Cody, which bought 10 for the toilets at the Beck Lakes park.
On a cold December afternoon, members of Cody High’s Outdoor Club installed them.
Co-President of the Cody High School Outdoor Club Jordan Nelson said, “Just in doing two outhouses we already found one bird, so you can already see the impact that it is making.”
Watson said there may be as many as 75,000 vault toilets without pipe screens in the U.S. The Raptor Center staff hopes to cover them all someday.