Montana Audubon Environmental Educator of the Year award speech
June 3, 2000, Polson, Montana
by Robert Petty, Education Coordinator, Montana Aududon

We often hear people talk about their "life-long" commitment to their profession. Well for this year's recipient of the Environmental Educator of the year, the phrase most certainly fits. It all began at the age of five with two box turtles--"salt and pepper"--in Saint Louis. From there she branched out into snakes, frogs and salamanders. Before long thoughts shifted to prehistoric animals and she became a self-described dinosaur freak.

By 1973 her fascination with wildlife was firmly ensconced when she joined the Jr. Zoologist Club at the Cincinnati Zoo. There she began to take care of raccoons and red and gray foxes. She was quickly dubbed "the raccoon-girl" by her fellow rehabers. It was there too, that she began caring for her first birds of prey--kestrels and screech owls. Little ones, of course, because she was told little girls weren't allowed to take care of the big ol' red-tails.

She began to conduct her first education programs at the age of 14 for area schools, but she had to have others take her to the programs because she couldn't get her license until 16. When she finally could drive, she was hauling foxes and raccoons and kestrels all across Cincinnati. That was over 20 years ago, and since that time, what began as a childhood fascination has grown into a full-time, all-consuming, live-eat-breathe-never-leave-town-because-I've-got-to-take-care-of-the-birds- passion.

But her talents are more diverse than the mammals and birds alone would have you believe. By trade, she is a taxidermist--having won many awards for her life-like mounts. By compulsion she is an artist--having shown her paintings, etchings and sculptures (of birds of course) in many shows locally, regionally and nationally, including the prestigious "Leigh Yawkey Woodson Birds in Art Exhibition". By training she is a zoologist, having earned her degree from the University of Montana in 1982. By choice she is an educator, with a commitment that is obviously enduring. And finally, by mistake, she is an administrator, having recently formalized her work by creating the non-profit organization "Raptors of the Rockies" for which she now serves as Executive Director, and Chief Raptor--Master of the Flock.

Here are a few statistics for you:

The word "raptor" comes from the Latin word for "seize & carry away". Kate is clearly a raptor, for she has seized a passion for wildlife and has carried it away into a life of creative educational service to birds.

Montana Audubon is pleased to award its 2000 Environmental Educator of the Year Award to Kate Davis.