Tuesday, January 5, 2016
From http://www.eagles.org: "Challenger" is a non-releasable Bald Eagle cared for by the non-profit American Eagle Foundation, headquartered at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
In early 1989, Challenger was blown from a wild nest as a baby during a storm, and unfortunately he experienced too much human contact at a very young age and became highly "human socialized." He was released into the wild and three times Challenger sought out people looking for food when he became hungry, so it was determined that he could not survive on his own in the wild. At that point, federal and state fish and wildlife agencies placed the eagle in the care of the American Eagle Foundation, where he continues to help educate millions of people.
Challenger is named in honor of the crew of the space shuttle, and has been making educational appearances throughout the country since 1993. Acting as an ambassador for his species, Challenger has raised a great level of national public awareness about the need to restore and protect America's eagles, natural resources and environment. The bald eagle is still a "threatened" species throughout the lower 48 states, and much of its nesting and feeding habitat is being encroached upon by humans.
Challenger is the first bald eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly over stadiums during the presentation of the National Anthem.