Bald eagle at Denver Zoo unexpectedly dies

Jul 9, 2024, 3:57 PM

Toano, Denver Zoo Conservation Alliance’s 24-year-old bald eagle, died unexpectedly last week on Wednesday, July 3.

The announcement was made on DZCA’s social media channels Monday in a lengthy tribute accompanied by four photos of the bird, which disclosed that Toano’s cause of death was severe underlying heart disease. The post specified that the exact age is only an estimation and is not certain.

Leading up to his passing, the animal was under the care of DZCA’s veterinary medicine team for undisclosed “ongoing medical conditions.” According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bald eagles’ life expectancy in the wild is 15 to 25 years, although their lifespan is typically longer when cared for in captivity.

According to the post, the eagle sustained injuries to his chest and right wing, which led to his rescue by the USFWS in Washington. Originally, USFWS made attempts at rehabilitation, but his injuries suggested he shouldn’t return to the wild. Toano was previously at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs until March 2006, when he was transferred to the Mile High City as an adult.

DZCA possesses a permit that allows it to have bald eagles in its care that are unable to return to the wild. Otherwise, it is illegal within the US to own a bald eagle, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle or Steller’s sea-eagle, as outlined by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The body of the mainstay will be taken to the National Eagle Repository, which distributes eagles’ feathers, body parts and bodies to Alaska and Indigenous natives who are a part of federally recognized tribes. As noted in the social media post, this system “provides a legal means for indigenous communities to acquire eagle feathers for religious purposes, which, in turn, reduces the pressure to take birds from the wild and thereby helps protect wild eagle populations.”

Of Toano, Animal Care Specialist Brittney H. noted that “there’s occasionally those unique birds who challenge us to be excellent caregivers and leave such a big impression…To me, he represented the importance of the human-wildlife connection. He perfectly showcased the beauty of nature and our bond to the natural world.”

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