Afghan Eagle Gets GA Lift

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A steppe eagle named Mitch that was wounded in Afghanistan in June and rescued by Navy Seals was delivered via Cirrus SR22 to a bird quarantine site in upstate New York last week. "It was an interesting experience," Cirrus pilot John Williams told AVweb. "It took almost an act of Congress to get this bird back to the U.S." Mitch had been hit after landing on a rifle range, and a wing was damaged so he couldn't be returned to the wild. The Seals and other soldiers at the site adopted him, but knowing they would soon be re-deployed, they worked for several months to find him a new home. Williams picked up Mitch at a general aviation airport near Norfolk, Va., where the bird had hitched a last-minute ride to the U.S. via military transport. "The bird arrived in a dog crate and luckily it fit just perfectly on the back seat of the Cirrus," Williams said. "It was an absolutely stunning, gorgeous bird. Two soldiers had flown over with him to make the handoff, and then had to go straight back to Afghanistan. I was honored to help out." After spending 30 days in quarantine, Mitch will move one more time, to a permanent home with the Berkshire Bird Paradise Sanctuary.

Navy Seal Craig White helped to care for Mitch in Afghanistan and contacted Pete Dubacher of the Berkshire sanctuary after finding his website online. Red tape nearly derailed the effort, but many people rallied to the cause, including author Barbara Chepaitis, who had recently finished a book about the sanctuary; New York Sen. Charles Schumer; and volunteers with Pilots 'n Paws. "I found out while we took care of Mitch, he (or she for all we know) is very easy to grow fond of, and I think he will be nothing short of an awesome resident [in his new home]," White said. "Literally hundreds of hours of everyone's time and energy went into this and I think this is something that we can all feel really good about." Mitch should arrive at his permanent home in time for Veterans Day.