More Controversy Erupts Over Auburn's Raptor Center - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

July 7, 7:00pm

More Controversy Erupts Over Auburn's Raptor Center

The spectacular site of the eagle circling Jordan Hare Stadium and even flying at the Olympics, put Auburn's Raptor Center on the map, but now some say the program is in terrible disarray.

One man who has donated more than a half million dollars says he won't give another penny. The donor says the center's recently fired director is being made a scapegoat for a bad medical decision. If it flies, Woody Bartlett probably likes it, so much, the 1964 Auburn graduate has given more than a half million dollars to the school's raptor center. Woody Bartlett says he's not happy with the decision to fire Director Joe Shelnutt.

Shelnutt was fired because of the deaths of 11 birds, even though Shelnutt had no authority to order treatment or a quarantine to protect the other raptors. Bartlett says Shellnut was stripped of his powers about a year ago when they hired Dr. Heatley. Bartlett says Dr. Jill Heatley should be blamed instead. The center treated an injured Merlin last September, which died the next day. When lab tests indicted it carried the killer, Mycoplasma Bacteria, Bartlett says she should have ordered a quarantine.

WSFA's Chris Holmes got in touch with Dr. Jill Heatley late Monday afternoon. She denies Bartlett's allegations. Dr. Heatley says tests on the first bird that died last September were questionable, that not all of the other birds that died were infected with Mycoplasma, and that she didn't think quarantine was necessary. As for Joe Shelnutt, he chose not to speak with WSFA, saying he was concerned it would hurt his chances at getting a new job.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the center, has ordered it not to accept or release any birds until it can prove the infection is under control. Heatley says she doesn't know when that might happen.

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