WABASHA, Minn. (KMSP) - The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota announced Thursday its senior eagle ambassador, Harriet, has died. She was 35 years old.
Harriet first arrived at the National Eagle Center in 2000 when she was rescued after a collision with a vehicle. Harriet sustained injuries to her left wing and a portion of that wing ultimately had to be amputated. Due to the extent of her injuries, Harriet was never able to be released back into the wild.
How she got her name
After Harriet arrived at the National Eagle Center, local students were asked to write an essay about a famous American the center could honor. A first grader wrote an essay about Harriet Tubman, and Harriet the eagle got her name.
Harriet was the center's first eagle ambassador. She traveled to New York City and Los Angeles for national TV appearances on the Today Show and The Tonight Show, and in 2007 she traveled to Washington to celebrate the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list.
Thousands of visitors over the years came to know Harriet by the feather tuft atop her head. This growth was the result of scar tissue and damage to feather follicles that occurred in the vehicle collision in 1998.
Harriet became most famous for her work with veterans, visiting VA hospitals to give service men and women a chance to see out national symbol up close. This community work earned her a place on the Minnesota Support Our Troops license plate.
Harriet's final days
In 2015, due to her advancing age and increased arthritis, Harriet retired. 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. In recent days, Harriet had not been eating, which is an indication that she was near the natural end of her life. With increasing pain and no more interventions that could extend and improve Harriet's quality of life, National Eagle Center staff took her to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center where she was euthanized.
"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, executive director of the National Eagle Center. "The Raptor Center has provided care for Harriet 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."
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