Raptor rehabilitator Jane Kelly moving On the Wing: NH to Wisconsin

EPPING — Jane Kelly said it was a calling 14 years ago – 10 dead barn owls discovered over the course of two months along the roadside of Route 101, struck by cars.

“I felt it wasn’t a coincidence, that I was supposed to be doing something,” said Kelly, who reinvented her life as a retail store owner to become the Seacoast’s leading raptor rehabilitator. The years saw thousands of recovered birds of prey, countless educational talks and a recurring role on the Animal Planet reality show “North Woods Law.”

Jane Kelly of On the Wing, holds Floki, a snowy owl, at her house in Epping on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

Now, Kelly is saying goodbye to the state where she discovered her passion and is moving home to Wisconsin where she was born and raised. She said she came to the difficult decision this year that she needed to be closer to family, and she will be back in the Midwest by the end of the month.

“It was a bittersweet decision,” Kelly said. “I hate goodbyes.”

Kelly said she will be continuing On the Wing in Wisconsin, while staying in touch with volunteers who helped her rehabilitate birds on her Epping farm. Plans are in the works for some of those volunteers to become certified and trained to continue Kelly’s work so Seacoast raptors still have someone watching over them.

“We’re losing an amazing person who has such a care and knowledge for the raptors in this area,” said Kristin McConnell, one of the volunteers who hopes to continue On the Wing’s legacy in New Hampshire. “She was just this matriarch of the sky dragons.”

Jane Kelly of On the Wing, holds Lila, a Eurasian eagle-owl, in Epping on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

From store owner to raptor savior

Kelly moved to New Hampshire 19 years ago while she was still the owner of a retail store chain in the Midwest with locations in Chicago and Minneapolis. She was 43 years old when she began discovering those first barn owls on the side of the highway between Auburn to Hampton. She had no background in biology, zoology – “no ‘ologies’” as she likes to say – but she confided in a close friend how troubled she was by the discovery.

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