Challenger, the famous free-flying Bald Eagle, cared for by the American Eagle Foundation, who has flown free during the singing of the national anthem at many national sports events, paid a visit to a very special person earlier this week--Bob Hatcher.
The name Robert M. Hatcher is practically synonymous with the phrase "Bald Eagle recovery in Tennessee". In the 1960s and '70s, Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction, with only about 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states and no known eagle nests in Tennessee. Since then, strict protection laws, the banning of DDT, and dedicated restoration and recovery efforts have helped restore this majestic species to America's skies. As of January 2014, there are about 143 successful Bald Eagle nests in Tennessee. From these nests, around 250 eaglets fledged in 2013. As of today, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, American Eagle Foundation and other partners have released 358 captive-hatched or translocated eaglets into the wilds of Tennessee.
Betty Hatcher (Bob's wife), Laura Cecere and Challenger at the Bells Bend release. Photo credit: Cyndi Routledge
The American Eagle Foundation (AEF) in cooperation with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) released a Bald Eagle near the Cumberland River in Nashville on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at the Bell's Bend Park. This release honored Bob Hatcher, who initiated Tennessee's Bald Eagle recovery efforts in the early 1980s.
The AEF and TWRA arranged this special eagle release to honor and thank 76-year-old Bob Hatcher for his dedication to helping bring our nation's living symbol, the Bald Eagle, back from the brink of extinction. He served as the Non-Game and Endangered Species Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from 1978 to 2001 and served TWRA for a total of 38 years.
Above, former TWRA Executive Director, Gary Myers addresses the audience. Photo credit: Cyndi Routledge
The AEF invitation to the event included the following: "Since the mid-80s, Hatcher has been a mentor and close friend of Al Cecere, Founder and President of the American Eagle Foundation (Est. in 1985). Hatcher is one of the main reasons the AEF exists, having generously volunteered thousands of hours of time and expertise to the cause. TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter, AEF President Al Cecere, and Mr. Hatcher's Wife, Daughter, Son, family, and friends will attend the ceremony to recognize and honor this exemplary individual.... The Bald Eagle to be released on Tuesday will be appropriately named "Hatcher's Legacy"....
"Mr. Hatcher is dearly loved and respected by friends, colleagues, and conservation representatives all over Tennessee and the country. He is the epitome of selflessness, integrity, patience, passion, and humility. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of Bald Eagle and endangered species conservation. He has always been a big promotor of "symbiotic relationships," focusing on what people could achieve by working cooperatively together and sharing the credit. Thus, he has humbly never taken the full credit that his friends and colleagues all know that he so greatly deserves. He is a legacy....Through this release, we hope that the public will truly understand the impact Mr. Hatcher has made not only on endangered and threatened species conservation, but on the thousands of people he has taken the time and patience to individually speak to, teach, and mentor throughout his life. More importantly, however, we hope Mr. Hatcher will truly understand how grateful we all are for his lifelong selfless dedication." (American Eagle Foundation press release and invitation).
Al Cecere, President and Founder, American Eagle Foundation, Dollywood, Tennessee. Photo credit: Cyndi Routledge
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter (above left) announces the establishment of an annual scholarship fund named in honor of Bob Hatcher, to be awarded to a biology student with an concentration in Ornithology. The first scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2014. The scholarship will be administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.
Ron Hoff, President of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) (above left) with TOS members Susan Hollyday, Ken Dubke (Chattanooga), and Polly Rooker.
Appreciation to Cyndi Routledge for all of the above photographs and to the American Eagle Foundation and TWRA for this public tribute to one of Tennessee's greatest and most beloved conservationists.
Bob Hatcher (third from left) pictured with Ken Dubke (Chattanooga TOS), Joan Garland (International Crane Foundation) and Ed Carter, Executive Director, TWRA, at the 2013 Sandhill Crane festival held at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Bob Hatcher
Links and Resources:
American Eagle Foundation facebook --image of Challenger's visit to Bob Hatcher
Facts about Bald Eagles in Tennessee--Bob Hatcher is the author of this document