In July, 17-year-old Tyler Weed of Rifle joined an elite group of young men.
Weed, an only child, will be a senior this year at the Garden School in New Castle. He has been a Boy Scout for 11 years. Since 1912, more than 2 million Boy Scouts have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Make that 2 million and one, as Weed is now an Eagle Scout, too.
"We are very proud of Tyler and all he has achieved," said his mother, Paula Weed. She was an Explorer Scout for a year and provided first aid to scout camps when she was 16.
"He (Tyler) started as a Tiger Scout when he was 6 and has stuck with scouting, going to a National Jamboree in Virginia and a World Jamboree in Sweden," Paula Weed wrote in an email. "He has a love of the outdoors and has enjoyed his scouting experiences. Scouting has helped him grow into a responsible young man. We are so happy for him."
It's not easy meeting the requirements to be an Eagle Scout. Prospective scouts must progress through five Boy Scout ranks and earn 21 merit badges, including first aid, citizenship, communications, personal fitness and more. Twelve of those badges are "Eagle-specific," according to Tyler. Prospective Eagle Scouts must also actively serve in their troops for at least six months and do a service project for a nonprofit organization.
In April, Jake Jacobs, one of Tyler's troop leaders, suggested a project: Build two cages for the orphaned, injured or displaced animals brought to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation's Western Colorado Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center south of Silt.
Tyler worked on the project from April to mid-July, planning, preparing and gathering support. Executive director Nanci Limbach helped him with the design of the new 15-foot-by-3-foot-by-3-foot cages needed to house small mammals.
"We get so many different types of small mammals that we were running out of cages," Limbach wrote in an email. "We already had a raccoon compound with eight separate cages in it, but we needed more. And we could never use them for other small mammals that would carry the same diseases."
Limbach said one cage Tyler built is in an area away from the coons and is used for otters, marmots, weasels, squirrels, beavers, baby ducks or geese, along with baby bobcats. Not at the same time, of course.
"The design was already there in the form of a completed cage," Tyler wrote in an email. "We just needed to create two more."
With the help of his father, the maintenance coordinator at Williams' Willow Creek natural gas plant, Tyler received a donation from Williams.
Paula Weed is a field office administrator for Williams in their Parachute office. The Weeds have lived in Rifle for 4 1/2 years.
Tyler also wrote a letter to the Rifle Elks Lodge and received financial assistance from the service club.
"My parents, several of my friends from the Garden School, leaders from my troop and Seth Green, who is an Eagle Scout and friend, helped me with the actual work," Tyler wrote. "I sent messages on Facebook asking my friends to help and made several phone calls. I'm glad everyone was able to help me."
Tyler, a self-taught blacksmith who makes knives, scythes and swords in his free time, also collects medieval weapons and armor and has an interest in arachnids (spiders). He plans to take some courses at Colorado Mountain College this year and hopes for a future career working with animals or arachnids.
"Visiting the wildlife center was very interesting," he wrote. "It's amazing the work they do there rehabilitating all the animals. I got to see a bear cub while finishing the last pictures of the project. It's great to have this resource in our area."
The center, which takes in animals from around the state, has had an interesting year with the wildfires and drought conditions.
"We have two elk calves from the Woodland Park area that were found with no adult," Limbach said. "One was stuck in a fence. They both were only a week or so old. It's hard to say if they got separated from their parents in leaving the fire area or whether the smoke confused the family.
"We also have a golden eagle that was along the river when the DeBeque fire was happening," Limbach added. "No parent was ever sighted. The high winds caused a lot of baby raptors to be blown out of nests and injured. Mostly hawks, owls and falcons."
One injured baby owl is learning to hunt and is "flying nicely," Limbach said. His "foster dad," himself recovering from a broken wing, now has six youngsters with him in a flight pen.
"All are doing well," Limbach reported.
Since 1984, an estimated 5,000 wild animals have been rehabilitated and released by the foundation, everything from mink to mountain lions. Volunteers, donations and education are a vital part of the program's continued success.
"I love having Scouts do their projects or even teaching them for their badges," Limbach wrote. "As for Tyler, it was a pleasure getting to know this special young man. Very few boys ever complete the whole Boy Scout program."
Tyler's parents are grateful for the Boy Scouts of America program and the support of local Troop 223.
"Scouting has been such a great influence in Tyler's life," Paula Weed wrote. "Being homeschooled, it added so much to his social life and gave him a lot of experiences he'll never forget. Every city and state we have lived in has always had a great scout troop and Rifle is no different."