EL PASO, Texas – Each year on January 10, the United States celebrates Save the Eagles Day. For the El Paso Zoo, however, every day is an opportunity to care for and protect these majestic birds.
Over the past ten years, the El Paso Zoo has played an integral role in nursing injured and ill golden eagles back to health. According to Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Victoria Milne, each of these eagles would likely have died from illness or injury were it not for the efforts of the Zoo’s veterinary staff and rehab partners such as Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy in San Antonio and Gila Wildlife Rescue in Silver City, New Mexico.
“Our vet team treats the eagles for injuries like fractures and gunshot wounds and infections like West Nile Virus,” explained Dr. Milne. “Once they are healthy, we send them to a wildlife rehabilitator where they prepare the eagles to be released. Like any athlete, the eagles have to get back in shape to fly in the wild after being in the hospital recovering and healing.”
Golden eagles are the national bird of Mexico and one of the largest birds in North America. Known to be impressive hunters, these powerful birds are able to dive at more than 150 miles per hour. When birds of prey such as golden eagles are removed from an area due to injury or illness, the impact on the ecology is profound, making rehabilitation efforts vital to ensure healthy ecosystems.
“We have worked with the El Paso Zoo to release hundreds of hawks, falcons, owls, and eagles,” said Dennis Miller, founder of Gila Wildlife Rescue. “This kind of success rate is almost unheard of in rehab work. The expertise and compassion of the Zoo’s veterinary staff is both impressive and heartwarming. We are so glad that we have developed this wonderful partnership with them.”
In addition to caring for golden eagles, the El Paso Zoo is now home to a male bald eagle named Patriot. Patriot is a rehabilitated bird who could not be released into the wild because of permanent damaged caused by a previous leg injury. Currently, he is working with The Birdman, Joe Krathwohl, to acclimate to his new surroundings before meeting the El Paso community during the Zoo’s daily Wings of the World bird show.
To learn more about the El Paso Zoo, visit elpasozoo.org. More information about Gila Wildlife Rescue can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.