Wabasha, MN  (KROC AM News) -  A very popular bald eagle has died, one that was viewed up close and personal by thousands.

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha announced Thursday that its senior eagle ambassador, Harriet, has died at the age of 35.

The bald eagle arrived at the center in 2000 after being treated for injuries suffered from a collision with a motor vehicle. Due to the extent of her injuries she was unable to be released back to the wild. Harriet hatched in Wisconsin in 1981 and was banded that year by a Wisconsin DNR researcher who recovered her 17 years later after her collision with the vehicle. 

The center says Harriet had not been eating in recent days and without the medications provided through her food, she was in increasing pain. Center employees took her to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota yesterday where she was euthanized.

Here is more information from the center:

Shortly after she arrived in Wabasha, local students were asked to write an essay about a famous American that we could honor by naming this eagle. A first grader wrote an essay about Harriet Tubman, and Harriet the eagle got her name.

Harriet was the first eagle ambassador and literally put the National Eagle Center on the map. She traveled to New York City and Los Angeles for appearances on national television, including the Today Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2007, Harriet appeared in Washington DC to celebrate the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list.

Thousands of visitors over the years came to recognize Harriet by the feather tuft atop her head. This distinctive feather growth was the result of scar tissue and damage to feather follicles that occurred in the vehicle collision. In that collision in 1998, Harriet also sustained injuries to her left wing and a portion of that wing ultimately had to be amputated. Although she would never fly again, Harriet’s determination and spirit would continue to inspire thousands of people.

Harriet became most famous for her work with veterans that ultimately earned her a place on the Minnesota Support Our Troops license plate. For years, Harriet was a regular visitor to VA hospitals, visiting wounded veterans and giving them the chance to meet our national symbol up close. Since Harriet herself had visible injuries, she was a ray of hope and a pillar of strength for many wounded warriors.

Support Our Troops

In 2015, due to her advancing age and increased arthritis, Harriet retired from programming. In addition to medications to manage her pain, Harriet was moved to offsite housing where National Eagle Center staff could better manage her health needs.

“We believe the kindest thing to do was to keep her from a painful end and let her die peacefully in expert care”, said Rolf Thompson, National Eagle Center, Executive Director. “The Raptor Center has provided care for Harriet (and indeed, all our avian ambassadors) from the start. When they told us there is nothing more we can do, we knew that the time had come to let her go.”

As an eagle that lived nearly half her life in the wild, Harriet can be considered quite old. Wild eagles might be expected to reach just 20-25 years of age. With her advanced age, and impacts from her injuries, Harriet experienced on-going medical issues including arthritis and cataracts. The National Eagle Center is grateful to The Raptor Center for the expertise and care they provide for all our ambassador birds, and for so many wild birds of prey.

The National Eagle Center is committed to continuing the work that Harriet began, inspiring people to care for eagles and the habitats on which they depend by offering personal encounters with these majestic birds. Current eagle ambassadors Angel, Columbia, Donald and Was’aka continue to meet and inspire thousands of visitors each year. Soon the newest member of the team, a young male bald eagle who is currently in training, will join them. The National Eagle Center hopes to introduce this newest eagle ambassador to the public in the coming months.

More information about Harriet’s life and legacy, including a brief video about her, can be found at https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/our-eagles/harriets-story-one-eagles-impact/.

Members of the public are also invited to leave a remembrance of Harriet at the National Eagle Center’s website or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheNationalEagleCenter). Donations to the National Eagle Center in memory of Harriet will support the on-going care of all the eagle ambassadors.

The National Eagle Center is an interpretive center on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha, MN. Home to non-releasable bald and golden eagles, the NEC offers daily educational programs, interactive exhibits, and opportunities to view eagles in the wild.

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