Stillwater News Press

Local News

September 23, 2012

Iowa Tribe provides a sanctuary for injured eagles

STILLWATER, Okla. — Severely injured eagles in North America have hope — Grey Snow Eagle House near Perkins.

The Iowa Tribe is capable of housing injured eagles for life due to a special permit granted by the government. Eagles that cannot be rehabilitated and released into the wild would otherwise be euthanized.

“That didn’t make sense to us,” said Aviary Manager Victor Roubidoux who sees it as an honor to care for the animals. The facility has received eagles from Oregon, Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Connecticut, Michigan and Colorado.

He got the idea for the tribal eagle rescue in 2002 when he read about a similar facility in New Mexico. Roubidoux said he thought it fit well with Iowa Tribe’s mission of conservation. After funding was secured, the rescue was started in 2006 with four birds. It houses more than 40 golden and bald eagles — most of them will be there for life because their injuries prevent them from functioning in the wild.

Human activity is the biggest threat to eagles, Roubidoux said.

Guide lines, fences, vehicles and towers all injure eagles. Most injuries occur to wings — an eagle that can’t fly, can’t hunt.

 One of the most common injuries is gunshot wounds. One of the eagles at the center was shot in Utah when a hunter saw it going for a duck he wanted to bag. Those caught harming eagles can be punished with a $5,000 fine or a year in prison.

Roubidoux said the Grey Snow sanctuary has become more focused on educating the public about eagles as shootings have escalated.

“We want to educate them about not only what the eagle means to Native Americans but what it means as a symbol of freedom to the United States,” he said.

Roubidoux said Native Americans say the eagle flies so high it is the only one who has seen the face of the creator and it can carry their prayers there. But reverence for eagles goes beyond Native Americans. Grey Snow Eagle House has been visited by people from all over the world from as far away as Norway.

Roubidoux said a Tibetian monk walking from San Francisco to Washington D.C. stopped at Grey Snow to see the eagles and say prayers.

Native Americans all over America revere the eagle and use its feathers in their religious ceremonies, Roubidoux said.

“It is one of the things we all have in common,” he said.

Grey Snow Eagle House has a special permit that allows it to collect molted feathers for Iowa Tribe members.

Other tribes don’t have it as easy and have to get their feathers from repositories that can have feathers from dead and alive birds mixed together. Roubidoux said many tribal ceremonies require feathers from live birds. Grey Snow is planning to resolve that this November by seeking a permit that will allow it to give feathers to other tribes.

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