Man Whose Life was Saved by Falconry Now Helps At-Risk Kids


We’ve all heard the age-old saying that there is nothing like the bond between a man and his dog. But what about a man and his bird? For Rodney Stotts in Virginia, the relationship he formed between himself and his rescued birds was the vital step he needed to reject the life of crime he was engaging in. Now, he’s looking to do the same for others by helping kids in low-income areas get on the right trajectory through the joys of falconry.


Rodney Stotts knows what it feels like to hit rock bottom. Being a twenty-something youth preoccupied with selling drugs, Stotts would wind up in a jail cell and in a system that pushes people to repeat bad behavior through methods of punishment as opposed to rehabilitation. Now it would have been easy for Stotts to return right back to the streets that were so temptingly familiar to him; instead he would become employed at the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) where he was to assist in cleaning the Anacostia River. Here Stotts’ deep love of animals and falconry would manifest, with a particular fondness reserved for the feathered aviators. “The first time I held a bird, period, it took me someplace else,” Stotts told the Christian Science Monitor. “As I was changing from working with the birds and everything and seeing myself, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”


Falconry refers to the ancient spot of capturing and aiding birds of prey who are unable to support themselves in the wild. This age-old relationship between apex predators and their human caretakers would unlock a whole new side of life for Rodney Stotts, who realized how his passion could be the exact needed push for others in the same precarious situation he once found himself in. Enter Rodney’s Raptors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing a love of animals and embracing compassion in children who are struggling in a variety of challenging circumstances. Not only do these kids get to experience the falconry program, they are also offered an astounding diverse role model, for Stotts’ is one the only 30 black falconers in the United States as he told WUSA9, and one who embodies the very spirit of resilience in the face of adversity.


From crossing the streets of Washington D.C in efforts to deal drugs, to owning a seven-acre farmhouse composed of a variety of hawks and horses, Rodney Stotts has certainly undergone quite a journey in life. However it was precisely the challenges Stotts faced early on that have allowed him to garner such an empathetic and truly wide-reaching helping hand. For the kids, he mentors, and indeed to all of us, Rodney Stotts is proof that no amount of struggle is too steep to overcome.