Quoting another successful Docent candidate:
“REF came highly recommended as a place for docent training. After applying for the self-mentoring program, I was interviewed and accepted. Studying the docent manual increased my academic knowledge of raptors and how they fit into our environment as well as learning how REF does business and cares for the birds. The course requires studying, researching, self-discipline and perseverance, but the ready help and positive reinforcement has been all I needed to be successful. All my questions were answered by my docent instructor, Anne Price, who was always available, patient and a fountain of information. The program is excellent, well thought out and challenging. I have learned more than I ever thought possible and now am able to not only work with the raptors, but am able to be informative and knowledgeable when speaking with others. ” –Ree Thompson, 2012
Find out why REF Docents have been with the organization for multiple decades. If you want the best raptor volunteer experience, don’t waste your time anywhere else.
As with all non-profit organizations, we rely on the participation of our member volunteers. If you live in the Denver or Brighton, Colorado area (generally within an hour’s drive) and are interested in learning to work with raptors, the Raptor Education Foundation has an extensive and vital docent program. The information provided here outlines our requirements. For other information contact us by phone (303) 680-8500, fax (720) -685-9988, snail mail (our address is at the bottom of the contents bar) or e-mail.
Please make sure you are completely familiar with everything on this page before you call.
New Flexible Training Schedule: Our new flexible training program more easily accommodates people’s busy lives.
Contact us for your first interview. Intake interviews are scheduled as our activity schedule permits. Please follow instructions below.
You may be a non-raptor handling volunteer without going through the course, however, you must come in for an interview, and you must still be a member.
*About the Docent Training Course…
Candidates must read and follow the instructions below as directed.
Our Docents are a very special group of people from diverse backgrounds. They may be retired or employed, but they all share an intense interest to work with the world’s most powerful, secretive, and magnificent birds. If you share the same passion, we invite you to join us.
The Raptor Education Foundation is proud to provide what is arguably the most extensive volunteer/docent training course in the country dealing with raptors. It is certainly the best in Colorado, and REF was the only Colorado raptor organization to be included in The Raptor Almanac: A Comprehensive Guide to Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Vultures written by Scott Weidensaul. We have even provided a training seminar about raptors for new Colorado Division of Wildlife officers in collaboration with the Colorado Hawking Club. In fact, our Docent Instructor, Anne Price, Curator of Raptors, received international acclaim by being featured in the world’s oldest continually published sportsmen’s magazine, Ohota I Ribalka (Russian) in its August, 2005 issue, which describes her work for REF, and her passion for falconry as one of the few women Master Falconers in the world. In December, 2014, the 3rd International Falconry Festival, held in Abu Dahbi, recognized REF by sponsoring REF’s Curator, Anne Price, to attend this international gathering representing 80 different countries. REF was the only raptor education organization in the United States to be sponsored, and Anne presented REF’s work in the education pavilion. Anne is also a biologist and author (REF’s book- Raptors, which is currently being re-issued after 32 years in print in the fall of 2019 ). You will simply not find a more capable and experienced teacher in the field of raptors in Colorado. Quoting an REF docent who has worked with other groups, “no other raptor group comes close!”
Members who apply for the training course first attend an interview with Foundation officials. This interview is designed to give you more information about the course, our volunteer expectations, and to answer any questions you may have prior to committing to the course. After this interview, REF staff will select qualified candidates. Please be advised that this is a very competitive selection process. Not all candidates are selected. Not all selected candidates complete the course.
Once accepted, trainees begin our training course. In the course you will learn basic raptor biology, ecology, natural history, and field identification as well as the veterinary, legal and safety aspects of working with these birds in a public setting. It’s a lot of college level material in a short time, but Foundation staff are here to help you learn! There will be a lot of home work.
At the completion of the course, you will take a written exam. Passing the exam (a minimum score of 80% is required) qualifies you for the next segment of training: Hands-On! During this module you will need to purchase your own raptor handling glove.
New trainees are assigned to senior docents in an apprenticeship program. Your senior trainer will work with you and each Foundation bird individually, at a pace which is comfortable for all involved. This apprenticeship period can take many months before you will be qualified to work solo with REF’s raptors. Not all docent trainees manage to complete this portion of the course.
There are many activities for volunteers to become involved in. Depending on your area of interest and the amount of training you have had in this area, the availability of the activity will vary. Some areas where we utilize volunteer services are: classroom programs, raptor care, public shows, office/clerical help, fund raising…or any talent or skill you feel could be utilized. Time is the critical element, and if you cannot afford the time, we are not able to change our minimum requirements.
Please Note: We are not a rehabilitation organization, and if you have had raptor experience with any other organization(s) you must still go through our course, as we have found our requirements are much more extensive, systematic, professional, and demanding. This quote from people that have been through other raptor “training” in Colorado, “there’s no comparison, the other courses offer nothing to compare, they offer no real course nor curriculum, it was a waste of my time.” Or from another candidate, “Wow, I had no idea REF operates like a professional association, instead of a back-yard operation,…what a major difference…you are real professionals.” So, before you commit your precious time and talents to working with raptors, we urge you to compare what any group or individual can offer you. When you are ready for the best, we’ll be waiting.
Accelerated Mentoring Program: Depending on an applicant’s qualifications, REF may elect to provide personalized mentoring to exceptional candidates outside of the general training courses. Should you be accepted as such a candidate, you will still be responsible for all normal course fees, membership dues, and any additional expenses incurred by REF as part of the individual mentoring process. This program is also known as our Special Mentoring Program in previous publications.
Although we are not a falconry teaching organization, we can provide the appropriate training via our Consulting Services. For falconry related information please go to the NAFA website.
In order to be able to handle any of REF’s raptors, you must meet certain criteria. These include the following:
- Be a member of the Raptor Education Foundation with a minimum of a Buteo membership level.*
- Be at least 18 years of age and have regular internet access (public library): you must be able to check e-mail bulletins every other day and monitor our Docent’s secure web pages.
- Begin and complete the Docent Training Course (flexible schedule/one-on-one) Cost is $150 and is non refundable*)
- Pass a written exam, and a background check.
- Be physically fit.
- Attend and successfully complete a series of hands-on lessons with the birds, and contribute time as specified below.
Only those volunteers who have successfully completed all criteria in our course manual will be allowed to handle any of the birds. Volunteers are also required to contribute 10 hours each month (averaged over each quarter) working with the birds during each year to remain an active docent. Oral interviews are required of all applicants before you are selected for the Docent Training Program.
Training for activities not involving the birds will depend upon each individual’s background, skills ,and REF’s requirements. Please call us if you want to help, but do not wish to work with the birds. To be qualified for consideration in any volunteer capacity you must be an active member at the Buteo level or higher.
If such a program sounds fun, exciting and challenging to you (and believe us, it is all those things!), contact us at (303) 680-8500 to find out more about our training course, or if you might be qualified for our mentoring program. We look forward to working with you. If you wish to submit your name to be put on the wait list, please click on our Volunteer Form page, print the page, sign and send it to us.
* Refunds: REF’s policy does not permit refunds for those individuals accepted into the Docent Training Course or the Accelerated Mentoring Program and then unable to complete the course, nor are membership refunds given to individuals who are not selected after the interview. No exceptions.
* Your annual membership must have been activated prior to your application to be considered for the Docent Training Course.
Raptor Education Foundation reserves the right to change its requirements for its Docent Training Course/Mentoring course without notice.