The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782. With outstretched wings, the bald eagle is displayed on the Great Seal of the United States.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has the privilege of caring for two bald eagles. Many pass by the 3rd Wing Headquarters building and don't realize that two eagles are residing within the large fenced pen at the Yukla Memorial.
Notch Wing was brought in on Oct. 7, 1992. He had suffered an apparent gunshot wound to his metacarpal, which has left him with limited flight ability and remains non-releasable.
One-Eyed Jack arrived on Sept. 21, 1999. He had broken his right humerus as a result of a misguided flight into a mooring pole in the harbor and is missing his left eye. His wing has never fully healed and he is also unreleasable.
Yukla Memorial at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (February 9, 2016) ... Left - One-Eyed Jack, a disabled bald eagle, stands on a perch. It lost an eye and its right humerus was broken as a result of running into a mooring pole. Right - Notch Wing, a disabled bald eagle, walks across a perch in a display cage. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, eagles are more abundant in Alaska than anywhere else in the United States. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Valerie Monroy)
Tech. Sgt. Krystle Quintana, 3rd Munitions Squadron munitions training noncommissioned officer in charge, is the lead volunteer coordinator and key base caretaker for the eagle cage.
“I make sure everything runs smoothly, I work on the permits, I take care of the facility and do all the training and paperwork,” Quintana said.
The care of the eagles and upkeep of their living area, is all taken care of by volunteers.
Once a day, a volunteer comes in to clean the cage, feed the eagles, give them fresh water and make sure they're doing OK, Quintana explained.
“We have seven volunteers that cover every day of the week, and then we have quite a few alternates who come in if a permanent volunteer can't make it,” Quintana said.
“It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more, and they're taking time from their day to come take care of them,” Quintana said. “It is a [big] commitment; they're messy eaters so you have to be willing to clean up after them.”
Many volunteers work hard during the week and still make time to take care of the eagles.
“I think Jack and Notch are important, because they are a symbol of America that dates back to the founding of our country,” said Airman 1st Class Mathew Warnecke, 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron engineer technician. “They represent the freedom that we have fought for and will continue to fight for generations to come.”
Warnecke is the co-coordinator for the volunteers and is responsible for running cage cleanings, ensuring the overall health of the eagles and making needed improvements to the cage as well as feeding the birds once a week.
Quintana said they have space for another bird, but it would both be a happy and sad day because that would mean the bird is unreleasable.
“With all the birds that come into wildlife sanctuaries, the goal is to get them rehabilitated and released,” Quintana said.
Foundation of the eagle cage
Kerry Seifert enlisted in the Air Force in the late '80s when Elmendorf Air Force Base was home to the F-15 Eagle. He was an experienced falconer and proposed that a display of eagles that could not be released be made.
After getting support from the wing commander, the construction began with the help of volunteers and the civil engineering flight, using donated materials.
In 1991, the first three eagles arrived. Notch-Wing remains the last of the original eagles.
The bald eagle is the only eagle unique to North America. They can fly about 65 miles per hour and soar to altitudes of 10,000 feet, staying aloft for hours using natural wind.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is illegal to take possession, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell or transport any bald eagle, alive or dead, unless allowed by permit.
It is also illegal to have an eagle feather in possession, except for registered Native Americans. At the eagle cage, volunteers gather the fallen feathers and ship them to the National Eagle Repository, where they are distributed to natives who request them.
Notch Wing and One-Eyed Jack enjoy eating salmon, trout, hooligan, turkey and beef; they don't care for bear meat or halibut, Quintana said.
Most of their food comes from donations and a freezer will be set out in the spring to collect food.
“If the food runs out, it comes out of volunteers' pockets, so we rely heavily on the donations,” Quintana said. “Monetary donations are also appreciated. Currently we are working on getting new gravel for the cage and it's going to be a big commitment.”
By U.S. Air Force Airman Valerie Monroy
Provided through DVIDS
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