Suzy Heck takes care of Calcasieu, a 4-year-old golden eagle. The bird lives at Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2014 4:34 PM
For three years, Suzy Heck, director of Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Lake Charles, has taken care of Calcasieu, a 4-year-old golden eagle. She said she wants to show him to students at local schools, but some steps remain before that can happen.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to use golden eagles for educational purposes to zoos, scientific organizations and registered museums. Heck — who sent her permit request in March 2012 — said one would be issued if one of those kinds of organizations told the federal agency that Heckhaven works with it on scientific studies.
Another permit requirement includes setting up an endowment fund, a step that was recently reached with help from the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana. Sara Judson, the foundation’s president and CEO, said Heck contacted the group about creating an endowment.
“We are pleased the foundation can offer that to nonprofits in the community,” she said. “We work with individuals and businesses and nonprofits who want a savings account for doing good.”
Heck said the bird was found in Morganza in January 2011 with injuries. She said golden eagles are normally found in the Western or Northern U.S., not Louisiana.
“We’ve only got one other golden eagle in the 20 years I’ve been here,” she said.
After he was found, Heck said, the bird was taken to Louisiana State University, where surgery was performed on his legs. In June 2011, officials with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries took him to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to be released. When he wouldn’t fly away, he was taken to Heckhaven.
“When I got him in, I thought he had a broken elbow,” Heck said. “I X-rayed him, and it wasn’t broken; he had a large buildup of calcium. Like people ... if you hurt a joint, you’re always going to be prone for arthritis.”
Because of his condition, Heck said, she decided to keep Calcasieu permanently. She said Heckhaven’s mission is to rehabilitate animals so they can be released back into the wild, unless injuries or other issues would keep them from surviving.
Heck said the endowment would not only support the continued rehabilitation of the eagle, but the overall effort at Heckhaven. Judson said residents can make tax-deductible contributions to the foundation and request that they go to the Heckhaven endowment fund.
Online: www.heckhaven.com; www.foundationswla.org/swla.