Leslie Science & Nature Center recently said goodbye to its mature bald eagle, believed to be the only one in Michigan that will fly free and return to its trainer. After trainer Francie Krawcke left this spring, the nine-year-old bird made “noises in agitation” and behaved threateningly to other staff, says Leslie executive director Susan Westhoff.

“The eagle is bonded with Francie,” explains Dody Wyman, who worked with it at the River Raisin Raptor Center near Manchester. It was brought there at the age of three weeks after being pushed out of the nest by a sibling and injured. Raised by humans, the eagle is unable to survive in the wild. A barred owl, another “human imprint,” also is now with Krawcke, who’s back working with Wyman and River Raisin. Westhoff wrote Leslie supporters that while the center will “deeply miss” both birds, “[we] know this is in the best interest for their welfare.”

A much younger bald eagle remains at Leslie, which has about fourteen birds of prey, but it is not allowed to fly outside its enclosure. Training a bird to fly and return, says Krawcke, “takes hundreds of hours.” But the imprinted eagle will be back in September for the opening of Eastern Michigan University’s football season. Each year it thrills fans of the Eagles with a pre-game flight over Rynearson Stadium.

An August Up Front incorrectly reported that the mature bald eagle that left Leslie Science & Nature Center had recently been exhibiting threatening behavior. “The bird was perfectly happy with us,” said Susan Westhoff, LSNC’s executive director. Westhoff explained that the decision to relocate the bird came after considering the needs of the bird, who had a unique human imprint; the effects of a staffing change, and the needs of the organization.

A nonprofit that oversees science-based school and community outreach, LSNC houses fourteen rehabilitated raptors that for various reasons cannot be released into the wild, including hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles. Westhoff says, “It is both an honor and a responsibility to care for these injured and amazing ambassadors.”

The Observer also erred in reporting that another bald eagle at LSNC is not allowed to fly outside her enclosure. In fact, she has flown free many times. Injured in a tornado, she can’t fly far enough to take care of herself but is able to take short flights for educational programs.

Leslie Science & Nature Center’s birds touch tens of thousands of lives each year in school programs, corporate events, assisted living facilities, and on their own campus. “These birds bring science to life and strengthen the connection between our community and the natural world,” says Westhoff. The birds are permanently housed in open enclosures on site where visitors are welcome.

Upcoming chances to learn more about birds at LSNC include two October programs, “An Afternoon with Sandhill Cranes” and “Myths and Legends of Raptors.” See lesliesnc.org for more information.