A Minnesota eagle that gained fame in national TV appearances and as a symbol for wounded veterans has died at the ripe old age of 35, the National Eagle Center announced Thursday.
The eagle, Harriet, had lived at the center in the southeastern Minnesota city of Wabasha since 2000, a couple years after she suffered severe injuries in a collision with a vehicle that left her unable to fly and unable to return to the wild.
She was a popular attraction at the center, and her regular visits to veterans hospitals landed her image on Minnesota's Support Our Troops license plate. She was easily recognizable thanks to a feather tuft on her head that was a result of her injuries from the 1998 accident. Her visible injuries made her a symbol of hope for wounded warriors, the center said in its announcement.
Harriet also made several national TV appearances, including "The Today Show," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Colbert Report." She also traveled to Washington in 2007 for celebrations of the removal of the eagle from the Endangered Species List.
The eagle hatched in 1981 in Vilas County, Wisconsin. Officials knew that because a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources researcher, Ron Eckstein, climbed up to her nest and banded her. As it happened, it was Eckstein who rescued her from the side of a road after her accident 17 years later.
The center announced Thursday that Harriet was euthanized Wednesday at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center due to her declining health. The announcement said she was "quite old" for an eagle who had lived half her life in the wild. While most eagles don't make it to adulthood, those that do can live 20 to 25 years in the wild. They've been known to live more than 40 years in captivity.