Monday, March 19, 2012

Eagle Story in the Washington Post

When an eagle dies anywhere in the United States it will probably wing its way – via FedEx – to Denver, Colorado. In Commerce City, on the outskirts of Denver, down a winding remote road is the U.S. Eagle Repository, a department of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The eagles are sent to the repository when they are found or turned in to game officials.

My assignment was to photograph a bald eagle that had made his way to the repository from Northern Virginia. A commuter spotted it on her way home near the metro tracks. When the eagle was still there the next day she called a rescue group. I met Washington Post reporter Steve Hendrix at the repository and we watched as Dennis Wiist, the wildlife specialist, evaluated the bird.

The repository is the only place that can legally take and process the eagles.

They are evaluated and distributed to Native Americans for religious ceremonies. An individual from a federally recognized tribe makes application for one of the 2,400 eagles that come into the repository each year –or for parts like feathers, talons, or the head. Some eagles are too damaged to keep whole. There is no charge to the tribes for the eagle or feathers. The repository has over 6000 applications and are filled on a first come-first serve basis.

It was a privilege to photograph this eagle. Steve quotes a cultural specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian, "The eagle is considered a messenger between human beings and our creator."

Check out the story and photo gallery at the Washington Post online.

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