Inside the Gates: JBER’s wounded bald eagles still stand tall
The story behind two bald eagles being cared for near the 3rd Wing headquarters
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Right next to the Yukla Memorial on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is a large pen with two male bald eagles.
“Obviously they are the symbol of our nation,” Senior Airman Mackenzie Feldhausen, an Avionics technician with the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said.
Feldhausen is one of seven volunteers who devote one day a week to caring for the birds.
“This is Notch Wing,” Feldhausen said. “He is our oldest and he is also our grumpy one.”
Feldhausen estimates Notch to be around 33 years old.
“We know he was five years old when he first got here in 1992,” Feldhausen said. “Adults have a complete white head when they are five years old.”
The aviary was built in 1991 and was the vision of Airman Kerry Seifert.
“It was around the time of the Exxon Valdez he noticed a lot of bald eagles with injuries and was worried there wasn’t going to be enough housing for them,” Feldhausen said. “That and at the time, Elmendorf and F-15 Eagles, jets, with all of these hangars behind the eagle cage painted with words that said eagle keeper country.”
Notch was one of the first three eagles to call the aviary home. One Eyed Jack, the other bald eagle on base, arrived to join Notch in 1999.
“They both came to us with apparent gunshot wounds,” Feldhausen said. “Notch lost four of his primary flight feathers on one wing and he is here because he will never be able to fly. Jack is missing an eye. We don’t know how he lost it. Could be from a fight or how he was injured. You can see how his wing doesn’t fit right in his body there."
The volunteers give their time to feed, water and clean the cages for the birds.
“All of the food we provide comes from donations,” Feldhausen said. “Right now we have both of our freezers full.”
These birds not only are a symbol of freedom in our country but also serve as living tributes to our wounded veterans. Anyone who would like to visit the eagles must have access to the base. You can schedule an appointment for a brief tour and visit through the Eagle Keepers Facebook page.
Correction: The third line in this story was altered to accurately reflex Senior Airman Mackenzie Feldhausen’s role.
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