Montana's Eagle Experience

Institute for Environmental Learning

Montana’s Eagle Experience, LLC has been developed as a “sister” organization to The Institute for Environmental Learning, Inc. (The Institute), which was founded in New York State. Paul and Anne moved from New York in 2015 to Arizona, where they established Arizona’s Raptor Experience, LLC. Since moving to Montana in 2021, they have launched Montana’s Eagle Experience, LLC. The laws that govern captive birds of prey require that native species be held under a not-for-profit organization. While many of the birds under our management are native species, some are not and therefore are held under a limited liability corporation – Montana’s Eagle Experience. Here we want to describe the Institute and its history.  

barn owl

Barn Owl
Photograph by Dr. Eric Gofreed

Paul Schnell

Hangin’ with the locals in Namibia.
Photograph by Anne Schnell.

The Institute was founded and directed by award winning naturalist and educator Paul T. Schnell, and was incorporated in 1992 as a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit conservation education organization. In 1982, Paul created Conservation Lecture Series where he taught principles of ecology and resource management using his slide photographs (10 years prior to the digital age!) and his Red-tailed Hawk Mingo that he hunted for falconry.

Once established, Paul and Anne did programs annually through the Institute that were seen by tens of thousands. Paul and Liberty (one of only two traveling bald eagles in NY!) were “regulars” at the New York Power Authority’s Wildlife Festival in Lewiston, NY each September since its inception in 1985 until the Schnell’s departure in June 2015 to AZ.

Government venues included USFWS and NYSDEC sanctioned programs while myriad schools, colleges, and service groups rounded out their popular statewide offerings. In 2007, Paul added Bron-yr-aur, a magnificent adult Golden Eagle to the raptor lineup.


Sunflower Field of Dreams in Upstate New York.
Photograph by Paul Schnell.


Bald Eagle, Photograph by Anthony Donofrio

In January 2009, Liberty (already a conservation Rock Star due to her huge public appeal) travelled to Manhattan to appear on the popular syndicated cooking show hosted by Rachael Ray. In January 2011, she was a guest on the Today Show. In 1997, Liberty participated in the federal de-listing of wild Bald Eagles where she appeared with then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt at Montezuma NWR in central NY.

future falconer

Future Falconer?
Photograph by Paul Schnell

Now in Montana, the mission of The Institute, as always, remains the same. Book with us today for a visit!

The mews, native raptors and biological specimens are held pursuant to Federal, state and local regulations. Visits and photo sessions are by appointment.

Institute for Environmental Learning

Early Institute logo, artwork by Len Rusin, photograph by Paul Schnell

Featured photograph in header: African Fish Eagle in flight by Mark Elder