The Bald Eagle We Knew as Liberty: January 20, 1989 – June 3, 2015
It is with overwhelming sorrow and a deeply broken heart that I am writing to share the death of that truly special bald eagle Liberty that touched the souls and hearts and minds of
hundreds of thousands of people in her 26 years as an ambassador for the natural world.
Although we rehearsed the bird portion of the trip many times prior to our departure on June 1st we could not have known that the past three year issue with osteoarthritis in her right leg would have given her such difficulty in perching during that long, hot five day 2290 mile journey to our new home and mews in Chino Valley, AZ.
Twice along the way she had dropped off her perch in her giant hood, but with a little help up, she gained her footing strongly. At this stop however, she was down and breathing heavily and unresponsive to being helped up. Worse yet, she lost all ability to stand upright. Had the stress of repeated falls, combined with some rough stretches of interstate precipitated, as the emergency vet suggested, a fungal flare up in her delicate air sacs? Unable to stand this last time, she drank some water from a spray bottle while Anne raced her to the hospital where oxygen and medical help awaited.
Liberty died at 2:32 a.m. on June 3rd in my arms.
Her final hour was spent physically next to my sad heart as she lie cradled on a pillow and towel, knowing her end was very close, but also nearby were Anne, Caleb and our dear friend Susie Cotsworth, Liberty’s friends and co-pilots. And so, our tear-filled good-byes sent her to the place where all eagles go and where we too will go one day.
If there is any good news at all to end on, it is that the other 13 birds including the 37 year old red-tail arrived in excellent condition all a bit anxious to stretch their wings and take a cool bath in the heat of their new place here in the high desert.
It is with heavy heart and tears that we send you the news of Liberty’s unexpected passing during our move to Arizona earlier this month. Until now, we have avoided discussing the particulars when some of you asked about the birds’ welfare as Liberty’s death was simply too sensitive to share at that point. There needed to be a legitimate grieving period.
Out of respect for her, I wanted to ensure the details were outlined in the attached letter, thereby mitigating any rumors, misunderstanding or false information in the public’s mind.
Arrangements with the National Eagle Repository have been made for her body to be shipped this week after I fashion her shipping container (coffin). According to a 20 year veteran at the repository, there are zero provisions for ‘famous eagles’ like Liberty, or any eagle, to be given to an educational or research institution. None. She will however, be given over to a Native American permitted to accept a whole body.
Furthermore, due to a federal privacy act I cannot be informed of where she is going or more specifically, to whom. I will however, provide some historical information and perspective about Liberty’s life and popularity as an important ‘education eagle.’ We can only hope that the recipient will respond, but it is doubtful as religious ceremony is typically a private issue with our Native brothers and sisters.
In closing, Liberty gave us all more than we ever gave to her. As her devoted guardian and daily caretaker for 26 years, she was by my side as the conservation message was shared with tens of thousands or more. I was merely a messenger. Liberty was the cornerstone.
At one somber event following the 9/11 attacks, some attendees at the NY Power Authority’s Wildlife Festival openly wept or cried when Liberty appeared from her giant hood perched ever stoically and majestically on the glove. In many cases, you could hear a pin drop or gasps come from amazed people seeing ‘their’ national bird up close for the first time.
Liberty’s unexpected death means that her custom built mews, here in the high desert, sits empty where otherwise she would heartily greet Anne and me and others stopping by – like a chanticleer greeting the morning sunrise.
Our friend and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle veteran reporter Leo Roth noted in his May 30 article of our NY exodus, ‘It was a gift to this community that can’t be replaced. When I stopped by her pen one last time, Liberty gave me a greeting call. But it was really goodbye.’
David Walker – New York Outdoor News Buck Challenge – 3rd place
David tells us of the events on that Thanksgiving Day that led to his winning entry…..
I got up like every other morning like I usually do in deer season. I like to get into my stand a half hour before it gets light. It was a calm day, with the temperature in the mid twenties. Early in the morning I saw a few does picking their way up to the bedding area. Around 9 o’clock four does came bouncing through. They were obviously disturbed by someone or something. I could see through the brush a tall tined buck making his way up following the does. Now I know why they were spooked! I let him get closer to an opening that was about 50 yards away. I aimed my Browning BAR 270 targeting his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. He piled up 30 yards later. The heavy horned buck was an 8 point with an 18 ” spread scoring around 130. What a way to start my Thanksgiving!
John Emigh – New York Outdoor News Buck Challenge – 4th place
John Emigh of Cohocton took fourth place in the New York Outdoor News Buck Challenge. Hunting has always been a way of life for John. He grew up hunting, as this was how his family put food on the table. But this necessity, rather than being a burden, developed into a hobby that Emigh truly loves and is absolutely passionate about today.
Emigh currently owns 12 acres of land in Steuben County. He has developed four stands on his property that are all currently active. However Emigh does most of hunting on his brother, Lloyd’s, land. Lloyd has 80 acres in Livingston county. Emigh’s labor of love has been working this land with his brother for the past 15 years, with 15 current operating stands as a result. They will continue to work the land with plans to add additional stands.
One of the deer Emigh has taken was a 160-pound six point with an inside spread of 17.5 inches. He took this deer from a distance of 33 yards. Another of his prize shots was a big 16 point green which scored 156.5, a buck that was 175 pounds dressed.
Since Emigh spends so many hours in the stands, he needs a product that works really well to keep him in the outdoors for long periods of time. He discovered that the top of the line MT050 jacket and bibs in the real tree camo from Cabela’s was especially effective for this purpose.
Emigh uses a variety of gear for his takes. He shoots a Mathews DXT bow with 100 grain GS striker broadheads. He uses a Remington model 7400 30-0-6 rifle with 150 grain Remington Boat Tail bullets. For a muzzleloader he favors his TC Pro hunter 50 cal. mag with 150 grain Pyrodec pellets with 250 grain Hornedy bullets.
Emigh says he is forever thankful his brother lets him hunt on his land and that he has a very understanding wife that lets him hunt all the time. He can’t wait until his 10-year-old Ethan starts hunting with him.