Leah Bald Eagle at Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo is saddened to announce the loss of Leah, a 37-year-old bald eagle who had resided at the zoo’s Children Zoo for 31 years. She was euthanized today due to a prolonged respiratory issue that was complicated by her advanced age. According to several sources, in the wild, bald eagles can live up to an average of 25 to 30 years.
In 1974, Leah was found in Minnesota with an eye injury. She was brought to state wildlife officials, who deemed her not a candidate for release back to the wild due to the lack of vision in her left eye. She spent four years at Lincoln Park Zoo, before arriving at Brookfield Zoo in 1979.
Over the years, millions of visitors have seen Leah as she had taken on many roles at Brookfield Zoo. She was a long-time participant in Children’s Zoo’s Animals in Action program and inspired great awe among the guests at the end of each presentation. She also appeared in numerous special events at the zoo, including ceremonies commemorating Veterans’ Day and during a Native American ground blessing in 2008 at the site of the Great Bear Wilderness exhibit.
Leah served as an ambassador for a conservation success story. During the summer months, guests could see Leah up close during informal Zoo Chats, during which keepers would share how the wild bald eagle population was brought back from the brink of extinction. In 1963 there were about 487 nesting pairs in the lower 48 United States. Because of conservation efforts, today, there are nearly 9,800 nesting bald eagle pairs in the contiguous United States. In 2007, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the recovery of our nation’s symbol, and bald eagles were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
“Leah was a favorite of guests and staff,” said Glenn Granat, associate curator for the Chicago Zoological Society. “She touched many people’s lives during her time at Brookfield Zoo. If one is fortunate enough to see a bald eagle in the wild it is usually from a distance, but here guests were able to really connect and be inspired when they saw this majestic animal up close. She will be greatly missed.”
Leah’s remains will be turned over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Eagle Repository, which was established in the early 1970s. The Repository serves as a clearinghouse for feathers and for eagles that are found dead in the wild and eagles that have died while being cared for at environmental/education centers and zoological institutions. The law prohibits state and federal conservation agencies, rehabilitators, and zoological parks, including Brookfield Zoo, from distributing molted eagle feathers and remains to anyone other than the Repository.