A female bald eagle hatched by wild parents on the North Shore last year no longer is a wild bird. It's most likely because she was befriended by people, although the last of those encounters probably was understood only by the eagle.
She now is an education bird, part of the Raptor Center's flock used to educate people about wild birds.
The first thing her audiences should learn is — don't feed wild animals.
The eagle is named Lutsen, for the Minnesota town near where she was found in August 2020.
The bird was "inappropriately interacting with people" in the opinion of Dr. Victoria Hall, executive director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.
Hall thinks the event was a misunderstanding: The eagle thought she would be fed.
"We think it was a classic case of a young eagle who came out of the nest too early, got fed by people, and then developed an inappropriate association that humans equal food," Hall told me in an e-mail exchange.
Lutsen got bad press in the Duluth News Tribune, where the encounter was described as an attack. This happened in front of Cascade Lodge and Restaurant along Hwy. 61. The bird had been in the area since the previous evening, people told the newspaper.
The bird, then in its second year according to Hall, was easily seen from Hwy. 61, and drew attention. Cars were stopping and people were approaching the bird. It didn't seem to care, which alerted someone to call the Raptor Center for help.
Before help arrived the bird approached a woman standing outside the restaurant and flapped its wings against the woman's legs and grabbed at her with its feet. The bird might have considered this behavior as usual. The woman didn't.
At that point, according to the newspaper, a man from the restaurant put his jacket over the bird, and struggled to make it captive.
The woman ran into the restaurant. Lutsen, now free again, kept Cook County sheriff's deputies and a state highway patrolman busy shooing the eagle off their cars and off the highway.
Eventually the bird was delivered to the Raptor Center.
"She came into our clinic super skinny — most likely why she was seeking people out on the North Shore — and we spent six months getting her to a good weight," Hall said.
"We put her with adult wild bald eagle patients to see if her behaviors would become more appropriate so she could be released," she said. "Unfortunately, she stayed way too interested in people. She would jump towards someone coming into the enclosure and investigate their feet versus moving away as a wild eagle should.
It was decided Lutsen could not be released to the wild. Instead, she was given a job as an educator joining TRC's education ambassador bird team.
"She gets a lot of enrichment working with people," Hall said. "Now we give her productive things to do with training and with educating groups."
And helping people understand that we should not feed wildlife.
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.