Arguably one of the most prominent and well-known bald eagles in a country that cherishes such birds is dead. Harriet, the 35-year-old eagle who hit the late-night talk show circuit, visited veterans and charmed schoolchildren in her life, was put to rest Wednesday after she lost her appetite.
Absent the medication she received in her food, Harriet was in pain. Her keepers in Minnesota at the National Eagle Center decided it was time to end her suffering.
“There were simply no more interventions that could extend and improve Harriet’s quality of life,” the National Eagle Center, where Harriet had lived since 2000, said in a statement.
Harriet was taken to the nearby Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, where she was euthanized.
“We believe the kindest thing to do was to keep her from a painful end and let her die peacefully in expert care,” Rolf Thompson, the National Eagle Center’s executive director, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “When [the Raptor Center] told us there is nothing more we can do, we knew that the time had come to let her go.”
Harriet’s likeness will live on, at least in Minnesota. A state license plate made to express support for the nation’s troops — who had regularly been visited by the eagle in veterans’ hospitals during her life — is adorned with the eagle. Her profile appears on the left-hand side of the plate with the American flag behind her. During her life she appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," the "Today" show and visited schoolchildren around the state.
The bald eagle has been an American symbol since 1782, when the bird was put on the country’s Great Seal. After several committees tasked with coming up with the national symbol failed to do so — including efforts undertaken by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — the eagle was chosen out of several designs to serve as the symbol of the country. Today the bird pops up all over the place in the U.S., from trucker hats in the Midwest to the opening credits for Comedy Central’s now-ended "The Colbert Report."