Mild Minnesota winter leaves 11 juvenile eagles stuck at The Raptor Center

The Raptor Center in St. Paul says the warmer-than-normal winter weather is forcing them to keep 11 juvenile bald eagles in their care, putting a strain on their resources. 

"These 11 eagles came in for a multitude of different reasons. Some of them are found with trauma or broken bones or just very skinny and dehydrated on the ground," The Raptor Center Executive Director Dr. Victoria Hall said. 

Dr. Hall says winter is typically the time when The Raptor Center would release these eagles back into the wild. The reason winter is ideal is because with lakes across the state frozen, large groups of eagles are congregating in one place. 

"When the waterways start freezing, the eagles start clustering around the open water that’s remaining because they like to fish where all the water's open," Dr. Hall said. 

In the winter, groups as big as 100 to 150 eagles congregate around this open water in places like along the Mississippi River in Red Wing. These juvenile eagles need to be released near these large groups so they can learn from them. 

"These eagles are still refining their ability to hunt or to scavenge and when we release them into these bigger groups, they can watch the other eagles and further refine their skills, as well as scavenge on the scraps or leftovers from these other eagles," Dr. Hall said. 

Dr. Hall says The Raptor Center has been releasing juvenile eagles like this for 50 years, but with so much open water across the state so far this winter, the eagles aren’t congregating in big groups. That means The Raptor Center has to keep the eagles in their care for longer than normal, straining their limited resources. They’re hoping lakes start freezing soon, so the eagles can return to the wild. 

"We will start releasing these eagles, hopefully, in the coming weeks as these, you know, zero temperatures are coming. So hopefully, within the next couple of weeks we're getting these birds back out to the wild," Dr. Hall said. 

For more information on The Raptor Center or to learn about donating and volunteering click here.