Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Eagle foundation builds new aviaries


May 24, 2018

The American Bald Eagle Foundation broke ground on remodeling its aviaries this month with goals to finish construction by October.

Education and development manager Sidney Campbell said the nonprofit is reorganizing the outside structures to accommodate more tourists, as well as make the enclosures larger and better suited to their avian ambassadors.

The foundation has 10 resident raptors – eagles, owls, hawks and falcons – that help teach visitors about wildlife and conservation. The outside aviaries where most of the birds are housed were built more than eight years ago and aren’t functional for heavy tourist traffic.

“We realized we were not set up for the number of people we get off the cruise ships,” Campbell said.

The foundation has been raising money for more than a year for the redesign. Campbell said $52,000 was brought in through crowdfunding on GoFundMe and donations from visitors. One foundation board member donated $25,000 to the project in September.

Although original estimates for project costs were up to $800,000, Campbell said the foundation is on deadline to finish work by the end of the year and will continue to fundraise throughout the summer.

Over the last three weeks, Campbell said Dwight Downer helped the foundation demolish two enclosures and a connecting hallway, tear up part of the paved parking lot and replace it with gravel and extend a wooden fence to the building.

After the busy tourist season, the foundation plans to build two new buildings with four enclosures. Each enclosure will be open on at least one side with mesh wire so visitors can see the birds inside.

“It’s great because people can finally watch training sessions,” Campbell said. Although most of the birds can be taken inside the building for education presentations, some are being trained inside their aviaries. The foundation previously could only allow 15 people at a time to see the outside aviaries but beginning this summer access is open to all guests with admission. The redesign also includes a new weathering yard where birds can sit on perches in an open area.

Inside the building, foundation staff blocked off the old entrance to the eagle aviary, rerouting traffic through the gift shop to a redesigned room with a wingspan display and the foundation’s two smallest birds, a merlin and screech owl, in new indoor aviaries. The large eagle aviary, where two of the foundation’s three bald eagles will be housed, received new flooring. Campbell said the first cruise ship day last week with a new layout was “incredible.”

The foundation is always looking for more volunteers, Campbell said. They are especially in need of a volunteer gardener to make the new outside space beautiful. Admission is free to locals, or $12 for visitors, and Campbell said she encourages Haines residents to come see the changes the foundation has made.


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