EAST AURORA, N.Y. - Few birds inspire the awe and love that an eagle does. There are two eagles native to North America: the bald eagle and the golden eagle. Both are superbly adapted to their environment and reside at the top of the food chain.
Still, despite their place in the hierarchy of life, they have long been threatened by man. In New York, the bald eagle was almost completely extirpated in the 1970s, though their population today has increased enough for them to be taken off of the endangered species list.
Hawk Creek Wildlife Center has rehabilitated raptors for years. Soon they hope to welcome two more eagles. One is a bald eagle that was found in St. Louis. It lost a toe after it became entangled in fishing line.
"Unfortunately, he did have some damage to his wing as well, and despite waiting for his feathers to come back in, they would come in and fall back out, come in and fall back out. So while the toe alone wouldn't have prevented him from being released, not having full flight maneuverability would have prevented him from hunting properly," said Tanya Lowe, director of wildlife education.
The second bird soon to be introduced is an injured young golden eagle, which a farmer found in Wyoming. He was able to scoop her up and take her to a rehabilitation facility.
"She was injured when she was very young, and so she has a permanent wing injury. Unfortunately she has never known the freedom of flight, and unfortunately she never will which is devastating. However, she can still have a high quality of life," said Lowe.
The new raptors will join many other animal educational ambassadors at Hawk Creek, including three bald eagles and two golden eagles.
Lowe believes their proximity to other eagles makes the transition process much easier.
"We're not going to just throw this bird in with them. I's going to be something where they're housed next to each other so they can see each other. They can talk, and they can learn the other bird. As keepers it's our job to know when it's appropriate to introduce them, and when we need to wait a little bit longer."
The Hawk Creek philosophy is one of repayment of a debt long owed by man.
"We have a moral obligation to them because most of those issues we mentioned are man-made. We have a moral obligation to these birds to give them the care and respect they deserve, and we owe it to our children for them to someday look an eagle nose to beak and see how truly magnificent these birds are," said Lowe.
Hawk Creek is in the home stretch of construction of brand new facility in East Aurora. It includes spacious new enclosures for all of the eagles. If you'd like to find out how to help, click here.
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