Spring is right around the corner and as ice on our lakes and rivers begin to melt, hundreds of bald eagles are making their way to our region. The National Eagle Center in Wabasha introduced its newest bald eagle ambassador at the St. Felix Auditorium during the first weekend of the 25th Annual SOAR with the Eagles Festival Sunday.
"It is not an everyday occurrence to introduce a new eagle ambassador," said Rolf Thompson, the National Eagle Center's Executive Director. In fact, it has been nine years since the center announced Was’aka as its newest ambassador.
18-month-old, Latsch was found along the Mississippi River by a Winona tour boat company and was then rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services.
The Eagles Center took the new ambassador to the world-renowned rapture center at the University of Minnesota, where veterinarians decided he has to stay in captivity.
"The Rapture Center, fixed him up, but determined that he was blind in his left eye, and therefore he wouldn't be able to survive on his own in the wild," said Thompson. "He was hatched just some miles down the river from here. And comes to reside here for his lifetime, which may be 30 or 40 years, you know, with the right kind of care, in our care. So we're very excited to have this bird, the local regional connection is very important."
The eagle is named after John A Latsch, who was an influential Winona businessman. Latsch bought and donated more than 18,000 acres of land to the public. "He was so instrumental in our region in protecting what are now public lands, all along the river."
Eagles were once rare and nearly extinct, but as seen soaring above Mississippi, their population is rebounding. Each year, 80,000 people migrate from all over the world to the National Eagle Center to see these iconic birds.
"Lots of eagles flying around on the river, they're on their way to their nesting territory or their summer territory in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Ontario," he said.
The SOAR with the Eagles event hosts special educational programs, activities, and exhibits for visitors of all ages on weekends through March 25.Each weekend will including a flying bird show at St. Felix Auditorium, with the lineup for this year including the Birdman, Wings to Soar, and World Bird Sanctuary featuring domestic and exotic birds, including exotic eagles species not found in North America.