Gracie is a northern female Bald Eagle. Her Potawatomi name, Zhewéndagwze, means “she is blessed”. She has a stoic presence in the enclosure with her pronounced and wrinkled brow. She appears to have a cowlick where upturned feathers meet her beak. She has a quiet demeanor but will often vocalize as visitors leave the viewing area. She loves to lie in the short grass next to the waterfall when she’s not on a high perch watching over the other eagles. Graceful, strong-willed, and elegant even during a hardship; Gracie exemplifies both her names.
Very little information was included with her initial paperwork. Her health record stated that “Gracie was non-releasable due to an old injury of unknown year of the left wing that made extending the wing and flying difficult”.
After the aviary opened in 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services contacted the Aviary seeking an emergency placement for several eagles. Gracie was temporarily being housed by Kate Davis, Director of Raptors of the Rockies in Florence, Montana. A permanent placement was needed, and quickly. Once all the paperwork was in order Aviary staff, Jennifer Randell and Bree Dunham, set out on the 28 hour (each way) long drive to pick up the eagles.
The journey to Kate Davis took Jennifer and Bree through beautiful country scenes of the Rocky Mountains. Once they arrived at Raptors of the Rockies there was only time for a short visit and introduction to the eagles before the trip home. The return trip was no less beautiful, though the aroma inside the van was less pleasing with four eagles in tow. Transporting eagles can bring a great deal of stress for both passengers and drivers.
When it came time to rest, Bree and Jennifer stopped and slept with the eagles. They stopped near a segment of the Oregon Trail in an area where traveler’s wagons were lowered down into a valley with ropes. Many travelers had found rest here before they continued their journey. The van’s passengers seemed to enjoy the fresh air and reprieve from the bouncing movement, but the stop was brief. Aviary staff and the eagles all arrived home in Shawnee safely on August 14th, 2012.
Gracie underwent major surgery just a few short months after her arrival to remove a tumor that developed on her foot. The tumor was very vascular and she lost a considerable amount of blood during the procedure, but the surgery was a success.