Saturday, January 17, 2009

Death of an Eagle Lady

Charlie Corbeil sent a note yesterday about the death at age 85 of Jean Keene, the Eagle Lady of Homer Spit, Alaska. Some Internet research revealed that Ms Keene was a true character - a former rodeo stunt rider (her hair and her horse were dyed the same red color) and truck driver, she moved to Alaska in 1977. She worked in a seafood plant and brought fish scraps to her mobile home to feed the eagles that wintered in Homer. According to the obituary in the Seattle Times, the number of eagles drawn to the Spit increased each year. So did the number of photographers! This activity was not without its detractors, and eventually the City of Homer banned the feeding of certain critters (including the eagles), but granted Ms Keene the right to continue feeding them through 2010.

The obituary notes that "Ms. Keene's passing leaves the city in an awkward fix. With hundreds of eagles loitering on the Spit, a sudden halt to feeding could bring starvation or an invasion into local backyards, federal biologists say. It's likely too late in winter for them to go elsewhere." We'll hope for a reasonable solution.

In March 2007, Charlie and Rod Ostoski (another fine photographer from Brevard County) spent a week in Homer with The Eagle Lady, photographing eagles. You can see some of the results of Charlie's efforts in his photo gallery and Rod's photos in his gallery. Rod took this photo of Charlie and Ms Keene, and Charlie passed along this remembrance: I looked at my notes from that trip and found a quote from her. "Someone asked me if I ever ate eagle and how did it taste? I said it was better than swan but not as good as spotted owl." She called the eagle poop on the condo roofs...Freedom Frosting. She was a great lady.
Debate if you wish the advisability of feeding wild critters, but mourn the loss of an unforgettable character.


Cactus Jack Splash said...

I am sorry to read this. I hope that they find a solution for feeding the eagles until they can make the transition to life without the Eagle Lady

Anonymous said...

Great post about the Eagle Lady. Since I was a kid I've been awed by the Bald Eagle. They appear so majestic. In the 1970's they were rare in Florida, but now I see them fairly frequently. I really enjoyed the photo galleries you linked to. Thanks!