“It’s really an American success story,” said Eileen Hanson, director of public relations at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, about the bald eagle’s move off the endangered species list in 2007.
This year’s Bald Eagle Days theme is “Celebrating the Road to Recovery.”
“Everyone has an eagle story,” said Bridget Befort, the center’s director of eagle care. At the National Eagle Center, home to a few Bald Eagle Ambassadors, “People can have that. You get that nose-to-beak experience.”
“Awareness is a big thing,” Hanson said. “The eagle is easy to like. They’ve got that going for them.” When it comes to PR, other species of animals in the Mississippi River Valley don’t have it as easy as the bald eagle does.
While celebrating the recovery of the bald eagle, the National Eagle Center will be providing programs that focus on other threatened species: whooping cranes, timber rattlesnakes, bees, mussels and other eagles of the world.
“Maybe they’re not so majestic, but they all have an important role to play,” Hanson said. “Timber rattlesnakes may not be everybody’s favorite, but they are threatened. Everything is connected. If everything else isn’t healthy, we can’t keep the eagle. You can’t have one piece without having all of the others.”
“We want to put the focus on other species that are having population concerns and help promote the health of the environment,” Befort said. “Timber rattlesnakes are part of that food chain.”
One of the weekend’s programs will focus on restoring timber rattlesnakes’ habitat in Minnesota. Live snakes will be on hand and the presentation will include learning how to tell different species of snakes apart and what to do if you encounter a snake in the wild.
“River Chats is debuting during Bald Eagle Days and will take place outside,” Hanson said. It will be part of the regular programming offered at the National Eagle Center in the future.
Fishing for the Eagles has its kickoff today at the National Eagle Center and runs on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Sept. 3. Participation in the fishing program is included with admission to the center. Fishing poles, lifejackets, bait and a dock to fish from are all provided.
“People can borrow the equipment,” Hanson said. “We help kids have that first fishing experience, learn responsible angling, learn about what fish are out there, what are the legal limits.”
“Lead is a huge issue for the birds and there are so many alternatives,” Befort said regarding tackle and sinkers used by anglers.
“One of the big hazards for eagles is ingesting lead,” said Hanson. “A tiny amount is lethal.”
Bald Eagle Ambassadors will make a lunch of legal catches made by Fishing for Eagles participants. Because the eagles have a regular feeding routine that they follow, those catches will be saved for appropriate feeding times.
Anglers wishing to donate catches to that National Eagle Center can call 651-565-4989 to make arrangements.