Rescued Bald Eagle will join the Yakama Nation Confederated Tribes and Bands as Education Ambassador
On August 15th, Think Wild, Central Oregon’s wildlife hospital and conservation center, received a call on our wildlife hotline about an injured eagle near Pringle Falls in La Pine. Think Wild immediately dispatched a rescue and transport volunteer, Gary Lauder, to assess the situation and capture the eagle for transport to Think Wild.
Upon intake at Think Wild’s wildlife hospital, staff learned that the large raptor is a juvenile female Bald Eagle. She had some superficial injuries, and X-rays showed that a portion of her wing had been amputated due to unknown trauma, potentially electrocution from power lines observed near her rescue location. The eagle was also emaciated, likely having gone without adequate prey for some time.
Fortunately, the wounds and emaciated condition of the juvenile Bald Eagle were treatable, and she quickly responded to treatments and began to gain weight. However, the trauma to her left wing caused permanent amputation of crucial bones and feathers necessary for flight.
“Because of the extent of these injuries, this Bald Eagle will never be able to fly. This means that she is unreleasable back to the wild,” said Pauline Hice, Think Wild Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation. “Fortunately, though, her age and disposition make for a good candidate for placement as an ambassador animal – a habituated or otherwise unreleasable wild animal who participates in education and outreach activities.”
Through shared contacts, Think Wild learned that the Yakama Nation of Confederated Tribes and Bands in Toppenish, Washington, was seeking their first bald eagle ambassador for their aviary. The Yakama Nation Aviary is a newly established tribal eagle aviary – one of only nine in the nation – that aims to provide wildlife and tribal cultural education and promote eagle conservation.
“The juvenile Bald Eagle transferred from Think Wild to the Yakama Nation Aviary will be our first eagle ambassador, with a goal of building a larger facility to eventually house 15 Bald Eagle and 15 Golden Eagle ambassador birds. These raptors will participate in educational and interpretive programming at the aviary,” said Michael Beckler, Aviary Biologist at Yakama Nation Aviary. “We’re excited to get our first bald eagle ambassador animal and look forward to working with Think Wild to expand our program.”
Federally recognized indigenous groups like the Yakama Nation can legally possess eagle feathers for cultural use, so establishing a tribal eagle aviary provides the opportunity for molted feathers to be kept and used by the Yakama people. Eagles and other birds regularly molt, or drop feathers, and these feathers will be utilized for ceremonial purposes by tribal members. The Yakama Nation Aviary also plans to implement a Youth Eagle Internship Program for young people to learn about raptor care and training, as well as career opportunities at the Aviary or in wildlife-related fields.
Bald Eagles are large raptors native to North America. They typically nest in forested areas near bodies of water, eating primarily fish. Previously declining populations of Bald Eagles have recovered in the past several decades, with an estimated 4% population growth each year between 1966 and 2019. Bald Eagles are protected in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. Eagles also hold cultural significance for indigenous peoples of North America. Think Wild is glad to partner with the Yakama Nation in this eagle’s placement and hope that she adds educational and cultural value to their community and visitors to their aviary.