AUBURN – Auburn University’s bald eagle Spirit will fly before the Ole Miss football game Saturday in honor of the nation’s conservation groups that have contributed to the resurgence of the bald eagle and its removal from the Endangered Species List.
Spirit will soar above Jordan-Hare Stadium 16 minutes before the 5:04 p.m. kickoff, following a ceremony recognizing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and the original founders of AU’s Southeastern Raptor Center. State Rep. Mike Hubbard will present a resolution to AU’s center on behalf of Gov. Bob Riley.
“We are honored to be receiving the resolution, ” said Veterinary Dean Timothy Boosinger. “It is a tribute to the raptor center staff and volunteers who have contributed to the treatment of birds of prey for more than 30 years. We will also accept it on behalf of the nation’s raptor centers and thousands of others who have worked hard to protect these magnificent birds through conservation education.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service in August removed the bald eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species during a ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. After nearly disappearing from most of the United States decades ago, the bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation. Federal laws still prohibit the “taking” of eagles, such as killing, selling or otherwise harming the birds and their nests or eggs.
“In 1963, the lower 48 states were home to barely 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles,” Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said. “Today, after decades of conservation effort, they are home to some 10,000 nesting pairs, a 25-fold increase in the last 40 years.”
In the mid-1970s, AU veterinary faculty members Jimmy Milton and Gregg Boring established the Southeastern Raptor Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine as a result of bald eagles being placed on the list. Today, the center has a complex that includes a hospital, training facility and educational amphitheater.
Milton is now a veterinary orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, while Boring is director of biomedical research at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
All birds used in AU’s educational programs are non-releasable due to prior injuries or human imprinting. Any bird capable of surviving in the wild must be released, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Anyone wishing to report an injured raptor in the wild should call the Southeastern Raptor Center at (334) 844-6347. More information about arranging an educational program is available by calling (334) 844-6943.