Science museum

Eagle “ambassadors” come to the Science Museum

Traveling shows at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Mall of America are designed to help people stay connected to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn., as it is closed during its $27 million renovation and expansion .

Bring the birds with you? It makes people pay attention, said Ed Hahn, the center’s marketing manager.

“People are all very emotional when they encounter the birds. There’s definitely a connection that is made between people and a living ambassador of the species,” Hahn said. “It can be an emotional, moving and touching experience. Having live eagles certainly enhances the educational experience.”

The Eagles were the stars of the show Friday in the Science Museum‘s Discovery Hall. They’ll be back for three shows on Saturday, at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. The shows are free with admission to the museum’s general exhibits.

The centre, which opened in 1999 on Main Street and was replaced by the current facility in 2007, houses four live eagles who, due to some type of disability or previous injury, cannot return to nature. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed this spring, with expanded space for even more birds, new collections and interactive exhibits.

The improvement of the quays on the river near the center, as well as the creation of an amphitheater and an outdoor community space are also part of the project. The dock improvements will allow ships from Viking River Cruises, which has announced plans to launch on the Mississippi River from St. Paul to New Orleans, to stop at the center, Hahn said.

The center has been closed since Nov. 1 for reconstruction and is expected to reopen soon, officials said.

On Friday, it was Latsch’s job to serve as ambassador.

Found in the summer of 2016 on the ground near an eagle’s nest along the Mississippi River near Winona, the newly hatched bird was taken to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center where vets discovered that he was blind in his left eye. It has been one of the birds used for awareness since 2018.

As Tina Lueck held the six-year-old eagle perched on her arm, Grant Fogt, an avian education specialist, shared some facts about the eagle with about 60 people in the audience. For example, eagles live in 49 states (all except Hawaii), their eyesight is so fine that they can see a rabbit up to 3 miles away, and their neck allows them to turn their heads 270 degrees.

The other eagles in the center are Was’aka, a 16-year-old who came to Wabasha from Florida; Angel, who was found as a youngster with a broken wing and never developed the ability to fly; and Columbia, which was hit by a car while feeding on a dead deer by the side of the road.

In addition to repairing his broken right wing, veterinarians at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center found a small amount of lead in Columbia’s blood. Hahn said that was enough to cause neurological damage and make it impossible to release into the wild. Columbia’s story highlights the continuing risks to eagles, he said, despite success in bringing them back from the brink of extinction.

Lead poisoning, whether from fishing tackle in fish or from fragments of ammunition in the entrails of animals left in the woods, takes its toll. Center officials plan to promote safer options for hunting and fishing as part of their ongoing educational program, Hahn said.

“An amount of lead no larger than a pinhead — about the size of Lincoln’s nose on a dime — is enough to kill an eagle,” Hahn said, adding that vets were able to save Columbia. “It’s nice to have a living ambassador who is also a survivor.”