Never Stop Discovering

Just twelve miles from Penn State's University Park campus, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center offers opportunities for students and the community to experience some of the best of Pennsylvania's natural environment.

In 1990, a Golden Eagle was released into Pennsylvania from the Hershey Zoo after being hatched and raised by its resident adult pair. But after the satellite transmitter attached to her leg showed that she’d stopped moving about a hundred miles away, near Stormstown, Pennsylvania, workers set out to investigate. 

They found the Golden Eagle had made contact with two electrical wires, shocking her and causing some pretty serious injuries. And that’s where Shaver’s Creek, Penn State’s outdoor education field land and environmental center, comes in. 

Golden Eagle

Ella Velazquez and the Shaver's Creek Golden Eagle

Elle Velazquez, an environmental education intern at Shaver's Creek, practices handling the Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle is a frequent participant in the free bird of prey shows, held every Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 2 p.m. at Shaver's Creek from April to November.

Image: Mat Brener and Morgan Boaman

Raptor Center

Shaver’s Creek, located about twelve miles from Penn State’s University Park campus, offers a nature center, hiking trails, live reptiles and amphibians, hands-on exhibits, and a Raptor Center—housing birds of prey unable to survive in the wild on their own.

As a result of the electrical shock, the Golden Eagle sustained injuries to her neck and wing and lost a talon. Though she cannot be released back into the wild, her recovery was successful, and she has lived at the Shaver’s Creek Raptor Center since September 1990. 

The Raptor Center currently houses fourteen different kinds of birds, from the Golden Eagle to five species of owls to the Bald Eagle, in addition to twelve species of amphibians and reptiles. Raptor Center Program Director Jason Beale says that it’s a privilege to use these animals to help educate the public. 

“The animals are used in almost every program that we do here at Shaver’s Creek,” says Beale. These programs range from classes and internships to community programs and team-building exercises. 

He continues, “My number-one job is to make sure the animals are healthy and living in environments that are doing a service to the educational program. In addition, my main goal is really to inspire conservation. I want people to walk away from a program with the idea that they can actively engage in some form of conservation related to the animals.” 

"Volunteering and internships [at Shaver's Creek] really set me on my career. [A]s soon as I left here, I knew I wanted to come back someday."—Jason Beale

Conservation Education

Though all the animals participate in programming, Beale says the Golden Eagle is his capstone bird. With a wingspan of 78 inches and a weight of twelve pounds, as Beale says, “She’s a large, impressive bird.” 

Having such a memorable bird round out his educational programs, he says, is a great way to talk about conservation and the kinds of things we can do to ensure the Golden Eagles’ survival. 

“Electrocution is actually one of the largest causes of Golden Eagle mortality out west, so her injuries are very relevant to talk about,” he says. “Some power companies are now spacing their lines further apart so animals won’t come in contact with them.” 

In addition, Tussey Mountain—located between University Park and Shaver’s Creek—is a critical migratory pathway for Golden Eagles in the eastern United States, with 239 counted this past spring.

Student Service

Penn State student workers round out the Shaver's Creek team of both full-time staff and numerous volunteers. Carli Dinsmore, a Wildlife and Fisheries Science major in the College of Agricultural Sciences, started out as a volunteer at the environmental center, but when she heard about the work-study positions available, she applied. 

“Working with animals and learning more about them is ideal for a Wildlife major,” she says. “We maintain the birds’ enclosures, feed them, and monitor their food intake, weight, and general health. We also work with the public in educating them and fostering interest in conservation.” 

The Great Horned Owl poses for a headshot

Shaver's Creek Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owls are sometimes called 'the tigers of the sky' because they can take down prey that is two to three times larger than they are. Shaver's Creek has two female Great Horned Owls. The birds have a wingspan of 55 inches and can weigh between 3.5 and 5 pounds.

Image: Shaver's Creek Environmental Center

"[The Great Horned Owl is] the third largest species of owl in the world, and I got to walk around and teach 500 kids about her. It's really cool to be able to touch a kid's life like that."—Jordan Crawford

Jordan Crawford, a Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management major in the College of Health and Human Development and fellow work-study student at the Raptor Center, recently took the Great Horned Owl to a school visit in Dallas, Pennsylvania. 

“It’s the third-largest species of owl in the world, and I got to walk around and teach five hundred kids about her,” he says. “It’s really rewarding to show them things that make them want to go out and play in nature. It’s really cool to be able to touch a kid’s life like that.” 

'Never Stop Discovering'

As the Shaver’s Creek staff and volunteers continue their mission of educating Penn Staters and the broader public, they keep an attitude of learning and curiosity themselves. In fact, experience at Shaver’s Creek tends to touch people’s lives forever, as Beale knows first hand. 

A Penn State grad himself, Beale volunteered for the Raptor Center during his junior and senior years of college. Though his college program was in History, he found himself hooked on what Shaver’s Creek had to offer and accepted an internship. 

“Volunteering and internships really set me on my career,” says Beale. “Between the time of my internship and coming back here last September, I worked for the Audubon Society and the Delaware Nature Society. But as soon as I left here, I knew I wanted to come back someday.” 

A wide outdoor shot of the Shaver's Creek Environmental Center on a bright summer day.

Shaver's Creek Environmental Center

Shaver's Creek is Penn State's nature center, offering fun and educational environmental programs and events for students and the community. Visit the nature center, hike the trails, meet the birds of prey in the Raptor Center, and explore hands-on exhibits and live reptiles in the Discovery Room. 

Image: Michelle Bixby

"Here, everyone's so excited to learn about everything. The sign on the way out of Shaver's Creek reads, 'Never Stop Discovering,' and that's the attitude of every staff member here. The message is resounding."—Carli Dinsmore

About Shaver's Creek

Located in the heart of central Pennsylvania, Shaver's Creek is Penn State's nature center, offering fun and educational environmental programs and events for the whole community. Visitors can experience the nature center, hike the trails, meet the birds of prey in the Raptor Center, and explore hands-on exhibits and live reptiles in the Discovery Room. 

Shaver's Creek is open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., from mid-February to mid-December, and admission is free. In addition, the center holds a number of special programs and events throughout the year. View the calendar of events.