About two weeks ago I learned that the US Fish & Wildlife Service issued a permit to the Arapaho tribe in WY to shoot two Bald Eagles for use in religious ceremonies.
I realize that there are probably tribal members who do not agree with this drastic measure to obtain eagles but as long as they don’t voice that feeling it will happen. Right now there are three tribal aviaries in OK (2) and NM(1) where a total of approximately 65-70 non-releasable eagles stand around for one purpose, molting feathers for the tribes to use in religious ceremonies and on Powwow costumes. The facilities are beautiful, one of the OK aviaries, I was told, was built with almost $500,000 USFWS grant (taxpayer?) money. And in November of 2010 the USFWS decided that all non-releasable eagles from rehab facilities had to be offered to these tribes, again just for molting feathers. Tribes may receive feathers and eagle bodies from the USFWS feather depository near Denver but they complain there is a very long wait and the bodies aren’t in good condition when received. I have been rehabbing eagles for 25 years and in that time placed 20 of them in various educational facilities around the U.S. to be seen by millions of people. The eagles in the tribal aviaries are seen by a few thousand tourists who make the drive to the reservation and, of course, by tribal members. When the educational facilities lose their birds from old age they may not be able to replace them.
I have been told by a high ranking USFWS person that because of the Eagle Act, Congress will not stand in the way of these “religious practices” even if some of the USFWS personnel may not agree with that decision. The USFWS also permit the Hopi tribe to take baby eagles from their nests and smother them in a religious ceremony. Reasoning being that it is the way it was done a couple hundred years ago. Lots of things were done 200 years ago that were deemed barbaric so they were stopped, as this permitting should be. There is no reason for killing these magnificent eagles, ever. 80% of baby raptors don't make it through their first winter and the Hopi are not even letting them try to make it in the wild. And these two Bald Eagle killings will only satisfy one or two people with hundreds more individuals perhaps wanting the same right. Now that the Pandora’s box has been opened it can’t be closed. I don’t see how the USFWS can deny any other tribe if they also request to kill eagles for use in “religious ceremonies”.
What is so upsetting is that these birds have just been taken off the endangered species list. The success rate of human marriages is about 50%, not so in the raptor world, they mate for life. Depending on when this despicable act takes place, many eagles are probably already sitting on eggs this time of the year. If you have any opinion concerning this matter please send letters to both the USFWS Region 6 office in Denver and the Arapaho tribe in WY so this atrocity can be stopped before any more Bald or Golden Eagles are killed.