Among those inspired by Stotts is his stepson Dallas Coleman, 20, a soft-spoken high school graduate with dreadlocks who is helping turn Benny and James into full-time public performance birds.
Besides the two Lanner falcons, Stotts works with two Eurasian eagle owls, a red-tail hawk and a Harris hawk.
“Day to day, I feed them, I train them, I fly them. We grow a bond with them,” he said.
Until the Wings Over America facility is ready, the birds will stay at Stotts’ home, a veritable Noah’s Ark that also includes pet snakes, pet rats and a couple of pitbulls “so that the cats stay away” from the raptors.
Reflecting on his life, Stotts said: “Losing people to the senseless violence that you were out doing yourself, it just makes you start to realize that you’re a bigger part of the problem than anyone else — and that you can’t ask someone else to start being part of the solution if you’re not.”