The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is an interpretive center which holds 5 rescued eagles, four bald eagles and one golden eagle. They have all been injured in various ways; several were hit by cars, and another had a tumor which blinded him. They were treated as best as possible, but they can’t survive on their own in the wild anymore. They are cared for here, and serve as ambassadors to the public.
This is a particularly good spot for the Eagle Center because the Mississippi River around Wabasha hosts hundreds of bald eagles every winter, and the nearby hills have some golden eagles too.
Along with nice views of the surrounding countryside, the center has two floors of signs and interactive activities, such as a grip strength tester to compare yourself to the power of an eagles talons. They also hold programs involving the eagles for education, but we didn’t see any of those. The highlight, and the main reason we came here, was to see the resident eagles up close.
The eagles have a mews with several perches and a small fence blocking people from going up and harassing them, but you could see them from just a few feet away. The room had windows that looked out to the Mississippi River, and one of them was out with a worker to get some sun.
The eagles are well cared for, and have a variety of enrichment activities. This video, posted by the National Eagle Center, shows their only male bald eagle, Was’aka, catching a minnow.
Other videos show clever solutions to keep the eagles busy like perches with extra branches attached for them to pull off.
My last two pictures show just how well you can see the eagles. The first, a bald eagle named Columbia. She was hit by a van in in Wisconsin while feeding on roadkill, fracturing her shoulder. She couldn’t fly again, but as the National Eagle Center biography mentions, this may have saved her life. While being treated for her injuries, they found that she had twice the lethal dose of lead in her blood. She likely would have died within days without treatment.
The second is their only golden eagle, Donald. He was hit by a car in California, which broke his right wing in two places, again preventing flight. Golden eagles are much less common around here; although they are seen around the Mississippi River Valley and the Driftless Area, they tend to prefer rocky or mountainous environments. During certain times of the year, though, you can take a tour from the National Eagle Center to try to see one.
The National Eagle Center was a fascinating place to visit, and they are even going to be expanding soon. Its a great example of a grassroots organization that grew alongside the recovery of the eagle population. The whole thing started as an outdoors observation deck to look at eagles nesting along the river, and grew its way to this, drawing tourists from all around and boosting the local economy. Hopefully, through organizations like this and public outreach, eagles can hold on to their healthy population.