During Cabrillo Marine Aquarium‘s Autumn Sea Fair, I had the chance to meet Sequoia the bald eagle.
Sequoia is an “animal ambassador” for the San Francisco Zoo, a job she is perfect for since she is already dressed to impress in the power suit of the bird kingdom. Her demeanor in the presence of many human gawkers was always calm and professional; this bird was not easily ruffled.
Of course, Sequoia didn’t necessarily plan on becoming an eagle ambassador to humankind, her story is actually much more interesting. Orphaned when she was a very young eaglet in 1988, she was rescued by humans and raised until she was old enough to care for herself in the wild. When she was released, she had all sorts of devices attached to her so researchers could track her whereabouts.
About four months after her release, the tracking devices showed no movement. Researchers headed out and discovered Sequoia had been shot! She was rescued a second time, but the bullet partially paralyzed her tail and damaged one of her toes. Thanks to these injuries, she can’t survive in the wild and is stuck with humans for the rest of her life.
Does being rescued twice make up for being shot once? Doubtful. Especially if you happen to be a bald eagle built for soaring with a wingspan of 6 to 7.5 feet. But she seems to graciously accept her lot in life. Although, she did keep her back turned to everyone most of the time, which I thought was pretty funny. When the volunteers turned her around so people could take photos, Sequoia would immediately turn around and face the wall again.
It seemed to me she was saying, “Honestly, you think you can shoot me and then I’m going to pose for your pictures, get real!” I would have to agree with her on that, but I was very appreciative to have the chance to see a bald eagle up close and get a better sense of how powerful and magnificent they truly are. A huge thanks to Kathy Hobson and John Flynn, who drove down to San Pedro with Sequoia all the way from San Francisco and took the time to talk to me about her.
(For more on detailed information on bald eagles check out the column I wrote in honor of the 4th of July.)