Originally Published: June 1, 2013 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Golden eagles are strong enough to take down a fully-grown antelope. They can soar 200 miles an hour in the right conditions. Their vision is such that they can see the details on an outstretched palm across a football field. And they can be rather intimidating if you view them up close.
Visitors to Prescott's Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary now have the chance to do just that.
Two female eagles, a golden eagle and a bald eagle named Montana, were unveiled at the park Friday. The eagles, both 9 years old, were brought to the park by staff with the Arizona Game and Fish Department's eagle program, thanks in part to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife permit.
Jerry Ostwinkle, rehabilitation and education coordinator for the program, helped transfer the two eagles to their new habitats Friday.
A vehicle, he said, struck the golden eagle two years ago.
"She lost part of her wing, but she's a healthy bird. She likes this
kind of environment. The weather in Prescott is much better for her than down in Phoenix," Ostwinkle said.
Montana comes to Prescott from Montana, hence her name.
"She was shot and has a wound in her wing. She is able to fly a little bit, but not enough to be in the wild," he said. "The reason these two were brought here is because they don't have the temperament. Stress will kill an animal faster than anything. An eagle can live 80 years. If it's stressed out it will live five, maybe 10 years."
Besides the zoo's new additions, Ostwinkle also brought Magnum along for the trip to Prescott. Magnum, a tame male golden eagle, clung to Ostwinkle's arm during a short talk on the creatures for park visitors.
"He's extremely tame," Ostwinkle said. "He's 9 years old and was hit by a car on Interstate 40. That's where we get a lot of eagles. He's blind in one eye, but it doesn't affect him much in flying."
Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary Executive Director Pam McLaren said the zoo was contacted in early 2013 by local game and fish representatives about the eagles.
"They had been keeping them for a while. They were in rehab and had them for educational purposes. They are not glove-trained and not currently used in their outreach programs," McLaren said.
After initiating the permitting process in January, staff began working on suitable habitats for the two new additions. "We retrofitted exhibits we had that once belonged to an owl and ravens," McLaren said.
The exhibit will give visitors an opportunity to see the birds up close and personal.
"This is huge for the zoo for us to have such an iconic species. We're elated," McLaren said.
Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is located on 10 acres of land near Willow Lake. Besides eagles, other animals found at the sanctuary include a tiger, a black bear, a mountain lion, spiders in a "grotto," and more. Visit the sanctuary online at www.heritageparkzoo.org.