Raptor Chronicles
A Golden Relationship
Peter and Blondie at the 1999 World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo by David Sargent
She was only six months old when Blondie adopted REF. I know you might think that is a backwards and foolish statement, but after having worked side by side with her for 39½ years I'm inclined to think she had as much to do with creating our educational efforts, as I did in creating the foundation that would be her showcase for 40 years. Chance plays a major part in what aspects of life we choose to develop or disregard. When Terry Grosz, the USFW Special Agent in Charge of Region 6 asked if I was interested in acquiring a young golden eagle that had failed rehab in Montana, I was somewhat cautious. I knew that imprinted raptors could be a handful to work with, and especially one as powerful as a female golden. But our first golden eagle was not really suitable for the role we had created and we were looking for a golden that was. Little did I know how well she would grow to fill the niche we needed her to, along with another note of gratitude to Terry Grosz.

As we began to work with her, it became quickly apparent that she was just as curious about us as we were about her. She adapted to virtually every situation we introduced her to with the few exceptions Anne describes below. As her relationship with her REF trainers and handlers grew, she matured in her ambassadorial role and became an exceptional representative of her kind.

Throughout all the years we worked with each other, we developed a mutual trust to the point that, in the midst of a program before a large audience at Rockland Community College in New York, while perched on my arm, her body language told me what was about to happen, and I quickly caught the egg she just had just laid. I showed it to the bewildered crowd, which had fallen silent in astonishment, while I described to them what had they had just witnessed. She was like that: she left me feeling like I knew a little something more about her, but in the end, I always felt inadequate in her presence. She, of all the raptors I have had the privilege of working with, connected me to the writings of Henry Beston in his book, The Outermost House:

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

In the end, she took part of me with her. It was a part I never knew I had, until I met her, and with each day that passes, I am that much more diminished by her absence.~Peter Reshetniak, Founder & Director of Special Projects
Anne and Blondie at the Northglenn-Thornton-Westminster Water Festival, a day-long event
 in which we've participated for decades. The faces of the children say it all...
I joined REF in the fall of 1986, as a nineteen-year old college student. Majoring in biology at CU-Boulder, I had also been working with raptors for six years and had already worked with two golden eagles. One was a huge female, weighing around fifteen pounds. But she had been blinded in one eye due to a gunshot, and though gentle, she was a nervous bird requiring very careful handling. I had never worked with an imprint eagle before and for the next 34 years, Blondie never ceased to amaze me, and more than once, left me speechless.

She was no ordinary eagle, and not even a typical imprint raptor, as I learned over the decades. It is difficult to express how truly interested she was in what the humans around her were doing, and how much she appeared to "enjoy" being around us. Dozens of volunteers could describe how she grabbed trash bags, played with the hose, tugged on clothing and insisted on coming right up to us to see what we were doing in her enclosure. In zoological terms, her life was just about as "enriched" as any eagle living with people could hope for. But more than this, her behavior in front of an audience was simply extraordinary. Noises and constant movement never bothered her. Sudden noises barely elicited a reaction. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, we discovered that certain brightly-colored carnival game prizes scared her terribly, but eventually, she adapted and lost her fear of even those crazy toys.

In the fall of 2003, she became sick with West Nile virus. That year, she and six other REF birds became ill, despite being vaccinated, and we lost our male golden eagle who was around 55 years old. West Nile left her blind in her right eye, and with a permanent droop to her wrists due to neurological damage. Again, she adapted beautifully, never losing her ability to fly, never behaving as though she could only see half of what was around her. She continued to be the queen of our mews, her beautiful, clarion territorial call ringing through the sky whenever a wild raptor flew overhead.

Her presence at the World Cup Alpine Ski Championships in Beaver Creek was simply "next level". Golden eagles are found worldwide in the northern hemisphere, so the elite skiers from around the world as well as local fans, all loved seeing her up close. Folks from Chamonix to Innsbruck to Killington to Gypsum came up to me, year after year, wanting to check in and say just hello to her. We spent hours together, side by side, with cameras and microphones in our faces and snow falling on our heads. One of us smiled and answered questions non-stop, and the other barked at ravens swooping over the finish stadium.
Circa 1993, when I was working on the "new" Denver International Airport project.
My favorite photo of the two of us together, at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey course while waiting for the medal ceremony to begin. Photo courtesy of Steve Prawdzik,Talon Crew, 2013
We knew that her bout with West Nile virus would likely shorten her life. But nothing could have prepared us for the behavior change which began on March 21st. By the next day we knew something was terribly wrong. We immediately ruled out egg binding; although she didn't lay eggs in 2020, she still had a brood patch and was exhibiting her typical "running with sticks" behavior. She had previously laid eggs year every year from 1990 to 2019. She made it through the first night at Anne's house and we are deeply grateful to Dr. Alison Hazel, and Dr. Kris Ahlgrim of Goldenview Veterinary Hospital for their outstanding and thorough care. By the end of that first week, we determined that Blondie had suffered a stroke or bleed of some kind. Radiographs (x-rays) also showed that her heart wasn't in the best of shape either, with enlarged veins and arteries. Because the normal lifespan of a wild golden eagle is 20-30 years, we weren't surprised at any of these findings. Her lungs, muscles and skeleton were in excellent shape without any signs of arthritis. We also performed an ultrasound on her abdomen, and other than a very active ovary, all seemed normal there.

Within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, she was on heart medication to regulate rhythm and improve blood flow. We soon added Meloxicam, which saved the life of our old female bald eagle from Alaska who also suffered a stroke at age 29. I was hand-feeding her twice a day, and keeping her at a constant temperature of 80F. Almost two weeks later, she ate on her own for the first time and even took a bath. Each day, we watched her regain some strength and I was also helping her re-learn certain behaviors, such as stepping on a scale and jumping up to a perch. Blondie had even lost her voice, as many human patients do, but slowly regained it after about ten days.

Hope can be a wonderful, terrible thing. A recheck on April 15th showed that she had gained half a pound and was very responsive to stimuli. But she was also showing very faint signs of weakness in her left leg, and the exam left her tired for hours afterwards. Over the next two days, she was quiet, and lost some of her appetite. We increased her warmth and kept her indoors but I felt something was wrong. Overnight from April 17-18, she suffered another stroke, or possibly the clot in her brain moved and she lost the ability to control her legs and stand. We knew there was nothing else we could do for her and that we had to let her go, and finally rest. Words cannot adequately express our gratitude to Dr. Matthew Demey of Seven Hills Veterinary Hospital for his caring and gentle medical intervention, with virtually no notice, on a late Sunday afternoon.

Peter was with her for 39½ years...I was with her for 34½. Our profound grief is tempered with deep gratitude for her long and remarkable life. She changed the hearts and minds of ranchers who thought that eagles killed calves and carried away sheep. She made people realize that rabbits and prairie dogs, so often thought of as "vermin" and "disposable" animals, were the primary, critical source of food for her kind. Millions of people over the years looked her in the eye, saw that magnificent 6-foot wingspan, and realized that eagles and all raptors need to be protected. She brought people together and brought the wild world into classrooms and state fairs and churches and so many other places where eagles aren't supposed to be. We have only ever shared the names of our birds after they have left us, because their lives and circumstances are too important, too serious to be reduced to a "pet" name. The mantra we've repeated for 40+ years is, "These birds are not our pets". But it doesn't mean we don't love them, and treasure every moment we are privileged to care for and work with them. We have lost a member of our family and she was a once-in-a-lifetime bird. On behalf of our staff and docents, all of whom share in our collective grief, thank you for reading our tributes and for all your support that helped us care for her for nearly four decades.~ Anne Price, President
Lots of Other Ways to Help!
A Special Anniversary Offer on All Three of Our Books!
Celebrate our 41st anniversary by purchasing our
three books at this special price!
Our Online Store is Open!
A new look...click on the image below.
Help Our Book Take Flight: Order Today!

Orders Here! Or you may order on Amazon. Peek Inside
Read more about the author and the illustrator.
Support us by shopping at AmazonSmile 
Listen for us the first Saturday of the month at
12:00 noon for five minutes of "raptorous" delight
with the BirdTalk Guys,
Scott & David Menough. Click here!
Driving For Wildlife
Help us put another 1,000 eagles on the streets of our great state. Qualified members of REF are entitled to display them on their cars. Put Colorado's first and best environmental plates on YOUR vehicle!
One of our members sent us this picture of his Cobra with our license plates. Anyone else out there with a classic car wearing our eagle? Send us your image!
Special thanks to The Kroenke Group & THF Realty for extending our lease and keeping the fee at zero dollars though 2023! Support like this ensures we will make it through these challenging times.

Thanks to our past and future partners, THF Prairie Center Development, L.L.C., THF Prairie Center Investors, L.L.C. and the City of Brighton, for creating the best intersection in Colorado just a minute or two north of our headquarters!

As the new villages grow at Prairie Center, so do the streets with cool names!
We're looking for a gently-used, 20-25 foot RV (Class C) that would serve as a mobile office for traveling programs around Colorado and farther away. Or maybe you have an SUV or pickup truck you would like to donate? We can put it to good use! Please give our office a call if you have a vehicle you think we could use!
(303) 680-8500
Thank you!
Our New Eagle Pin!
An exclusive creation for us, this fine pewter pin has been hand painted to let everyone know what you think of America's living national symbol. Available in a very limited edition while they last. This beautiful pin measures 1 1/8" by 1 1/2". Two clasps keep it firmly attached. $50 each includes shipping. Discounts for multiple purchases. Just click to order.

If you don't wish to use PayPal, then click here.
A New Print for 2021
This beautiful five-year study of our female bald eagle was photographed and composited by Marilyn Stevens. It measures 16″ x 20″ and is printed on fine photo paper with a “luster” finish. The print will fit many ready-made frames. To our knowledge this is the only available photographic sequence of an immature bald eagle showing off the plumage changes as she matures. Remember, both male and female look identical except for their size, but the male is about 30% smaller. Our foil seal is attached to the bottom of each print. (Not shown in the image above). This is a limited offer and the price includes shipping anywhere in the continental U.S.A. Only 10 left!

This limited offer is only available here. $40 for one print or $60 for two.
Pick it up at our office for only $25!
Join the 41 Families Supporting Our Raptor Sanctuary
Help Us Reach 100 Supporting Families!
Have you signed up for the King Soopers Community Rewards Program yet? Do you have a Loyalty Card and digital account? Just visit https://www.kingsoopers.com/o/store-services/community-rewards , log in and enroll to have REF receive donated funds from King Soopers and Kroger! We'd love to increase the number of families supporting us...please share with your friends and family!

OUR COMMUNITY REWARDS NUMBER IS TF405. Simply log into your account, look for "Community Rewards" on the left hand side, and enter TF405. Our name will appear, and you can link your card to REF. You save on groceries, earn fuel points, and we'll receive a quarterly donation from King Soopers.
Another Farewell
Sharon Minzer: 1958-2021
Sharon and I first met at one of our special programs for Colorado's Volunteer Raptor Monitors held during their annual meeting at Colorado Parks & Wildlife headquarters. Sharon Minzer became a member of REF and attended our raptor ID courses. She also participated in our raptor photo safaris on a regular basis, and her short-earred owl image below was taken at one of those sessions. Sharon had an excellent eye for photography. It was during one of these day-long photo safaris when I learned that Sharon was a medical doctor living with a debilitating autoimmune disease. Because one of my family members also has an autoimmune disease, we discovered another common bond besides the birds that she was so enchanted with. Even though it was difficult for her to be out in the hotter part of the day, Sharon never lost her zest for seeing the birds up close and enjoying the outdoors. We often talked on the phone about her treatments and how she was doing. As her conditioned worsened, our contact was relegated to phone calls or emails. And then I received the sad call that she had passed away. Sharon loved the time she spent with our birds, and as a scientist she never failed to have another question about their care and behavior. We will miss her on many fronts, and send her remaining family and friends our heartfelt condolences.~Peter Reshetniak, Founder & Director of Special Projects
It's Vaccination Time!
As you've read above, keeping our birds healthy requires a lot of effort and a vigilance. Each year we vaccinate our birds against West Nile virus, which was unknown in this country prior to 1999. We've been vaccinating our birds since 2003 and are now on our fourth different vaccine formulation. Every year we learn a bit more about this terrible disease, and we know that vaccinations do save the lives of many birds, even if they do wind up exhibit some symptoms of the disease.

We're asking for assistance to cover the cost of vaccinating our birds this year, which will be approximately $500. If you would like to contribute, please visit our website for more information. On behalf of all of our wonderful birds, thank you!
Meet Our New Peregrine Falcon!
Ready for some exciting news? We've welcomed a new member of our feathered family, a one-year old male peregrine falcon. He was captive-hatched in Montana and briefly flown as a falconry bird last year. After losing our 19 year-old male to atherosclerosis in February, we began the search for a new peregrine and we are very grateful to the falconer who generously donated this YOUNG bird to our program. He's still in his first-year plumage, hence the cream breast and belly, dark brown streaks and brown head and wings. However, he's already begun to molt and his new slate-gray central tail feathers are starting to appear. We're slowly training him to be a teacher now, instead of a duck hunter, so stay tuned for more updates this summer!
Automatic Monthly Donations: Thanks to everyone who has set up a monthly donation via PayPal. We have people from both coasts, a few states in the middle, and in Colorado contributing monthly pledges automatically...thank you!!
REF Staff: Anne Price, President & Curator; Peter Reshetniak, Founder & Director of Special Projects; Savannah Grout, Mews Manager
Docents: Elise Bales, Morgan Brantmeyer, Kevin Corwin, Karen Gonzalez, Bernhard Hafner, Kim Kistler, Linda Julia, Jennifer McAllister, Anne Price, Jennifer Redmond, Peter Reshetniak, Beverly Rice, Mitch Skinner, Ann Stanz