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Gibson honored at Sauk Prairie’s Bald Eagle Watching Days

January 22, 2019

For Marge Gibson, there’s nothing better than watching an eagle fly.

As the executive director of the Antigo-based Raptor Education Group, an eagle’s flight is a sign of accomplishment. Gibson and her small team rehabilitate about 100 sick or injured eagles each year, in addition to helping a host of other native bird species.

Sauk Prairie’s annual Bald Eagle Watching Days serves as an opportunity for the Raptor Education Group to release rehabilitated eagles out over the Wisconsin River, where fish near the Prairie du Sac dam are plentiful. Gibson and her team also offer education about eagle habitat and traits. The hundreds of attendees at the Jan. 19 event witnessed a single adult female eagle released back into the wild.

Although there is no official count of people at the release, not a single parking spot remained in VFW Park. Sauk Prairie police were at the top of the street leading down to the park, redirecting traffic away from it.

According to Ferry Bluff Eagle Council President Gene Unger, about 1,100 people came to events at Grand Avenue Elementary School, the Tripp Heritage Museum, eagle-watching bus tours and the River Arts Center based on ticket counts.

Unger said that number is about a 20 percent decline from last year, something he attributed mostly to the frigid temperatures.

“It was overall a very good weekend,” Unger said. “It was very well publicized. It’s a winter thing in Wisconsin and there was a lot of traffic in town. A lot of the local community gets a piece of (the benefits from) it.”

He said the event remains successful thanks to the partnership the council has with the village of Prairie du Sac and the VFW.

“They couldn’t be better partners,” Unger said.

At the release, Gibson received some unexpected recognition of her efforts by representatives of the Menominee Tribe — an eagle feather.

Gibson said she is unsure whether she can keep the gift because state and federal laws ban people from possessing eagle feathers. Native American cultures are not included in that ban due to their heritage and religious beliefs. Gibson will check with federal and state officials about what to do with the feather.

“It was totally unexpected and an incredible moment,” Gibson said. “It was really a very special moment.”

Gibson said although the event draws a slew of new people to the Sauk Prairie area, Bald Eagle Watching Days also has acquired a core group of return attendees.

“I think that speaks to the quality of the programs, presenters and educators,” Unger said. “The shows are entertaining but people also learn something new. It makes them want to come back again.”

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