More than three years after a poacher shot off her upper beak, Beauty the bald eagle can live up to her name. A team attached an artificial...
ST. MARIES, Idaho — More than three years after a poacher shot off her upper beak, Beauty the bald eagle can live up to her name.
A team attached an artificial beak to the 15-pound eagle in mid-May, improving her appearance and, more importantly, helping her grasp food.
“She’s got a grill,” joked Nate Calvin, the Boise engineer who spent 200 hours designing the complex beak.
The “grill” was some metal exposed when a bit of the synthetic beak broke off during application. The new beak is only a temporary fix, designed to nail down precise measurements.
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A final beak made of tougher material will be created and attached later, though her saviors don’t plan to release her back into the wild. They said she has spent too much time with humans, and the final beak will not be strong enough to tear flesh from prey.
Boeing and a maker of synthetic skin in California have volunteered to help make the permanent beak.
Getting the artificial, nylon-composite beak now was key to Beauty’s survival. A wild eagle that must be hand-fed by humans would eventually have to be euthanized, said Jane Fink Cantwell, who took Beauty to her raptor-recovery center in Idaho two years ago.
Cantwell estimated that money and donated services worth $100,000 have gone toward Beauty so far, and that the figure could more than double before the final beak is attached.
Two weeks after the beak was applied, “Beauty continues to do very well and we remain guardedly optimistic for her future,” Cantwell said in an e-mail Friday.
That’s a much better prognosis than when the bird was found in 2005 scrounging for food and slowly starving at a landfill in Alaska. A bullet had taken most of her curved upper beak, leaving her tongue and sinuses exposed. The remaining stump was useless for grasping food.
She also had trouble drinking and couldn’t preen her feathers.
Beauty was taken to a bird-recovery center in Anchorage, where she was hand-fed while her caretakers waited in vain for a new beak to grow. Cantwell in 2007 agreed to take the eagle to her Birds of Prey Northwest ranch.
During a speaking engagement in Boise, she met Calvin, who offered to design an artificial beak, which will help Beauty drink and grip food.
“As an engineer, as a human being first, I was interested in helping it out,” Calvin said.