MARQUETTE (WWJ) – Here’s the chance for a once in a lifetime experience: A raptor center in the Upper Peninsula is auctioning off the chance to snuggle with a snowy owl before releasing the bird back into the wild.

The auction by Chocolay Raptor Center, located just outside Marquette, starts Friday and runs through March 30th.

Center co-founder and president Jerry Maynard says the winner will have a training session before the big event, which is scheduled for April 3.

“They’ll have to come out on Friday or Saturday to get a lesson on how to safely handle the bird, and we’ll be using our resident great horned owl for that. So the snowy will just be handled the once,” Maynard told WWJ’s Beth Fisher.

Maynard said the snowy owl, a 1-year-old female, came to the center in January, exhausted and emaciated after migrating from the Arctic.

“I didn’t think she was going to make it because she was so weak but we did aggressive tube-feeding for about 24 hours. She started coming around, so then we switched to solids and she’s doing quite well,” he said.

The online auction will be held on the Chocolay Raptor Center’s Facebook page. It starts at noon on March 25 and ends at 8 p.m. on March 30. Bidding starts at $400 and increases in increments of $25. You must be at least 18 years old, in good health and willing to sign a liability waiver.

The winner will have their photo taken with the owl before the release.

Proceeds from the auction will go to Harbor House, a women and children’s shelter in the UP.

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