AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn’s eagle will fly in support of breast cancer awareness when he makes his pregame flight in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, Oct. 26, by wearing pink, one-of-a-kind leather jesses — the thin straps that help the handler control the eagle – and flying to a pink-highlighted lure.
When one of Auburn’s eagles, Nova or Spirit, flies before the Auburn-Florida Atlantic game, he will sport the handmade equipment that allows Southeastern Raptor Center specialists to securely handle the eagle. For the last three years, the equipment for each flight has been made by volunteers.
The idea of the eagle wearing pink to show support for the thousands of Americans who fight cancer originated with Southeastern Raptor Center specialist Andrew Hopkins. “I was seeing players wearing pink and fields with pink ribbons painted on them and thought it would be something the Raptor Center and the Auburn eagles could do as well,” Hopkins said.
Raptor Center employee Eva Matthews came up with the idea several years ago of volunteers creating the equipment. The pink lure and jesses were handcrafted by Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine first-year student Emily Warman of Alabaster, Ala., a volunteer at the raptor center since 2009.
While Warman’s abstract design features all things Auburn – a Toomer’s tree, an eagle head, a toilet paper roll, a lemonade cup and a band instrument to name a few – she was excited to add the pink paint for breast cancer awareness. Warman said she lost her grandmother to breast cancer and has a close family friend who is fighting breast cancer now. She says it’s “definitely pretty cool” to know the eagle is flying something she crafted and has the same spirited feelings as thousands of Auburn fans do when she watches the eagle fly.
A division of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, the Southeastern Raptor Center is a nonprofit organization with a threefold mission of rehabilitation, education and conservation.
Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the center has rehabilitated and released thousands of injured birds of prey and educated more than a million visitors about raptors and other forms of wildlife.
The uniquely Auburn tradition of an eagle circling free around Jordan-Hare Stadium before each home football game started in 2000 and is made possible by the training provided by raptor center specialists. The flights are in support of the center’s conservation message and conducted with the permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
(Written by Janet McCoy.)