The EV-W eagle has found a permanent home in a corner of the Eden Valley-Watkins Elementary School library. Now at home inside a beautiful case built by Schlangen Custom Cabinets of Eden Valley, the taxidermied eagle is part of EV-W’s history. Staff photo by Jean Doran Matua.
By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
Today, Minnesota is home to the largest population of nesting eagles in the United States, apart from Alaska. Twenty-some years ago, however, this was not the case. Eagles were just starting to make their slow come-back from the brink of extinction.
So it was quite extraordinary that a 13-year-old boy, out for a walk through the woods near his home on Long Lake, north of Eden Valley, would come across a disabled eagle lying on the ground.
Kyle Brulla was that boy. It was deer-hunting season, in November, but he wasn’t hunting. Just taking a walk in the woods.
Not wanting to approach the eagle alone, Brulla went home to get his father Larry who brought a box into which they could collect the eagle. There were no obvious wounds or injuries to the bird, and they were able to pick it up and bring it home without any fuss. They figure the eagle died about a half hour after they brought it home.
Because it was deer-hunting
season, no DNR game wardens in the area were available. It was two days before Game Warden Chuck Nelson was reached. He came to the Brulla home and took the raptor with him. His put it in a freezer with the intention that it be mounted. No necropsy (animal autopsy) was done to determine a cause of death, as doing so would ruin it for mounting. The Brulla family asked if they could keep the bird, not knowing that private individuals cannot legally own our national bird. Nelson informed them that it would have to go to an institution, like a school, and he began the paperwork to donate it to the Eden
EV-W Athletic Director Jay Johnson learned of the possible eagle gift and began plans for a display case for it. The eagle would be displayed in the top portion of the case, and a tribute to EV-W alumna and hall-of-fame basketball player “Peps” Neuman in the lower part.
After about six months of paperwork with both state and federal agencies, the school was given a permit to display the eagle, although ownership would permanently remain with the U.S. government. The permit was temporary, and revocable. And the school had to complete paperwork yearly and submit to inspections.
Eventually, the inspections stopped and the district was told they didn’t need to submit all that paperwork each year. But the school still can’t own the eagle.
Meanwhile, the high school installed a new gymnasium and front entryway. With those modifications to the high school, the eagle became displaced from its perch in the hallway. Since then, it has occupied a corner of the district board room.
Last summer, with extensive remodeling of the EV-W Elementary school – especially the library/media center – Sean Schlangen of Schlangen’s Custom Cabinets in Eden Valley was asked if he’d be interested in some of the wood projects that needed to be done. As it turns out, Schlangen had made the former display case for the eagle. When he saw the stuffed owls and loon in the elementary library, he offered to build a case there for the eagle. “Why don’t we just build that and donate it,” he proposed.
This was a very different build from anything else they’d done: it’s all glass, attached to a concrete wall, it’s big, and way up high, and it had to be removable so the eagle and case could be cleaned as needed. It took longer than planned, and it was installed in February this year.
“We like to do projects like this, Schlangen said this week, “and give back to some of the people who have supported us over the years.”
Next time you’re at the elementary school in Eden Valley, pop in to the media center to check out the eagle’s new perch.