Injured golden eagle rehabbed at WSU to carry on Yakama Nation traditions

Near TOPPENISH, Wash. — A young golden eagle that can no longer hunt in the wild after will carry on tribal traditions for the Yakama Nation after it was rehabilitated by Washington State University wildlife veterinarians.

The male eagle, which may have been hit by a car, was brought to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in early October with a broken left wing and injured left eye. The bird’s wing was repaired and is now healed.

The eagle is now living at the Yakama Nation Aviary near Toppenish.

“His wing injury was repairable, but he wouldn’t survive in the wild because of the trauma to his eye, so he cannot be released. He is a perfect candidate for placement and those just don’t come around often,” said WSU wildlife veterinarian Dr. Marcie Logsdon.

The bird is the second eagle at the aviary, a tribal facility that houses eagles and other birds of prey that are unable to be released, and uses them for ceremonies and education.

The eagle is only the third bird at the aviary. In many Native American cultures, the eagle’s feathers represent courage, strength and wisdom, and can be collected for tribal members at graduations, weddings, funerals and cultural celebrations.

“The eagle is very sacred to us and has great significance in our lives,” said Jerry Meninick, a Yakama elder, previous Yakama Nation Tribal Council member, and current deputy director of culture. “To us, the eagle is a messenger, meaning it not only has a responsibility here on Earth, but it has connection and communicates to the spiritual side of our lives.”

Usually, eagle feathers are usually recovered from dead birds, but the feathers of eagles living at the Yakama Nation Aviary can be collected from eagles through natural molting.