Challenger is a non-releasable Bald Eagle cared for by the not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation headquartered at Dolly Parton's Dollywood family theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Named in honor of the fallen space shuttle crew, Challenger acts as an ambassador for his species¬. For over twenty years, Challenger has been making educational appearances throughout the U.S. to raise awareness about protecting eagles, natural resources, and the environment.
Challenger is the first Bald Eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly into major sports stadiums, arenas, and ballrooms during the National Anthem! Some of his biggest appearances include several MLB World Series, Fiesta Bowls, NFL Pro-Bowls, BCS National Championships, and hundreds of other college and major league football and baseball games and corporate events across the country. Challenger has also made appearances at the White House, Pentagon, U.S. Capitol Building, Disney's Animal Kingdom grand opening, World War II groundbreaking ceremony, and numerous national TV shows including Dateline NBC, Fox and Friends, Good Morning America, the David Letterman Show, Larry King Live, and Jack Hannah's Animal Adventures.
In 1989, Challenger was blown from a wild nest as a baby during a storm and was hand-raised by the people who rescued him. Unfortunately, he experienced too much human contact at a very young age and became "human imprinted." Challenger is physically perfect, but he thinks he's a person. He cannot survive on his own in the wild.
Despite two attempts to release Challenger back into the wild, he kept landing near people to beg for food. On his third attempt to score a meal, a frightened man almost beat him with a stick, but a bystander saved him from harm. At one year of age, Challenger was placed under the care of the American Eagle Foundation by federal/state fish and wildlife agencies to be used for educational purposes.
The Bald Eagle is a protected species in the lower 48 states. The banning of DDT, strict protection laws, and the efforts of organizations like the American Eagle Foundation have all contributed to the recovery of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states. They've made an amazing comeback from only a 400 nesting pairs in the early 60's to over 15,000 pairs today!
For more information about the American Eagle Foundation and how to have Challenger appear at your event, visit our website or contact us today!