Many of you have been following Wadase as we track her journey back into the wild. Those updates, and the care for other CPN eagles, are provided by CPN Eagle Aviary manager Jennifer Randell and Bree Dunham. Here’s a look at how each of those ladies ended up on this particular career path.
Jennifer and Bree both began training to take care of eagles in 2007. Their training consisted of online classes with the IWRC (International Wildlife Rehabilitation Center) and the NWRA (National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association) in spring of 2008, attending various seminars offered by these two entities as well as starting our Migratory Bird Training with the Birds of Prey Foundation in Colorado and touring various raptor facilities in several states to begin working on designs for the CPN facility. In fall of 2008 they began training at Sia: The Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative.
We asked them a few questions about that journey and here are their answers.
What has surprised you most during your training and day to day interaction with the birds?
Jennifer: The most surprising is how intuitive the eagles are. You always have to be aware of your emotions around the eagles and stay centered. I can’t go in to feed in a rush or if I am upset about anything, they know!! You must be grounded.
Bree: How resilient they are, their strength and how intuitive they can be. Injured birds found in the wild, depending on their injury, can survive on the ground for weeks and still be a challenge to catch and handle. They are reluctant to show any weakness or sign of injury and observation is one of the most important things we do day in and day out. They are stronger physically than I ever imagined for having mostly hollow bones and not a great amount muscle. They really do feed off of your energy and if you are nervous or tense they can pick up on that. You have to be focused and grounded to handle these birds. If you lose focus they will remind you.
Do you have a favorite eagle? If so, which? Why?
Bree: I don’t know that I specifically have a favorite. I continue to be amazed by their individual traits and how different their behaviors and personalities can be. I think the birds we first trained with that we were able to transfer here for our opening will always have a different bond with, but living with all these eagles throughout the seasons I have developed a soft spot for them all.
Jennifer: No I do not have a favorite, but I do have favorite things that each eagle does. Like Archer follows me around the whole time I clean, or Shishibe'(duck), sleeps like a duck every night, they all have very unique personalities. It is very humbling to be able to go in and spend time with these eagles each day.
What’s it like to track Wadase?
Jennifer: Amazing! We have been very fortunate to be able to witness her growth first hand along with our Tribal members and employees! I never imagined it would be this good! All the experts are amazed as well. The relationship and experiences Wadase has allowed us to share with her are priceless and will very likely never be replicated. Now that she has shown us she can fly from county to county, miles high and over 25mph it is even more incredible she chooses to return to the Aviary!
Bree: Like winning the lottery! I never imagined we would release an eagle this soon after opening and it is incredible to be able to follow her progress. It is the most exhilarating and nerve wracking thing I have ever experienced all rolled in to one. We had hoped we prepared her for being on her own and that we made the right decision to release her. We have toured the back roads of several of the surrounding counties as she continues to explore the surrounding territory. But it is always humbling that she returns here, to the aviary, on her own. I have never had something leave me as breathless as the first time I saw her coming down out of a thermal in the sky to roost at the aviary. I knew the telemetry was telling us she could do those things but seeing it first hand was incredible.
Giving her the second chance to be an eagle, to carry our prayers to the creator and be a part of her journey is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever been a part of. It is a once in a lifetime experience and she continues to amaze me.
How would you encourage others to connect with nature in a safe way?
Bree: Unplug, get involved and get outside. It can be as simple as feeding the birds in the winter or visiting local wildlife areas. Get to know the wildlife in your region and find something that interests you. Spend quiet time near the water as it is a source of activity for wildlife and the joy of being outdoors is that you never know what you may experience on the same spot. Slow down to natures pace and see the beauty of the natural world around us from the most minute detail to the largest and how we are part of a larger universe and that all living things serve a purpose. There are many chapters like the Audubon Society to outdoorsman clubs in almost every city that are often good places to start.
Jennifer: Actually be out in it! So many people don’t take time to take a walk, sit by the water’s edge or watch the birds. Especially our young people, they need to reconnect with nature and outdoors, and if the Aviary can play a small role in that, well that’s all we can ask.
How much do the eagles eat and what do you feed them?
Jennifer: Our CPN eagles get a whole food diet, as close as possible to what they would naturally eat; rats, quail, fish. They eat about 12 to 14 ounces a day.
Bree: They eat about 14 oz. a day on average. During the winter that almost doubles and when the summer heat reaches 95 degrees or hotter they often skip a day because they have a fast metabolism and higher body temperature and they could actually overheat themselves by eating too much. The eagles always get a whole food diet much like what they would eat in the wild and a variety of different food. They eat rats, quail, fish and in the winter months some deer meat.
How do you help the eagles handle the extreme Oklahoma weather?
Bree: They have the hardest time with Oklahoma summer. In their enclosures we have running streams that in summer months we can empty and fill with fresh cool water when the temperature gets into the 90’s and 100’s as well as a misting system that actually cools the enclosures almost 15 degrees. We also have shade fabric that provides extra shelter from the hot sun. In the winter we put up a large cover on the north side of the enclosure to offer as a wind break and they have shade fabric in addition to a 10 foot roof cover that they can get out of the snow and ice if they choose to do so. However, most of the birds sit right out in it. On the coldest day this winter, I believe it was only in the teens and I observed several birds bathing in the running streams.
Jennifer: The eagles don’t have much of a problem with winter weather; it’s the hot Oklahoma summers we have to worry about more. We offer cover if they want and misters in the summer, but they generally set out in all the elements, just as they do in the wild. It really makes you realize how resilient they are; of course they are made for it.
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Eagle Aviary houses eagles rescued from the wild that are injured and cannot be rehabilitated. They will be taken care of for the remainder of their lives at this facility. The aviary allows CPN access to naturally molted feathers, which will be distributed to tribal members for cultural and religious purposes. In addition, the facility gives the CPN the means to save the Creator’s great messenger as well as the opportunity to reconnect our people to the living eagle.
The aviary construction was funded in part by a $200,000 Tribal Wildlife Grant awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tours of the aviary are available by appointment only. To schedule a tour please call Jennifer Randell at 405-275-3121.