COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — It’s heartbreaking, yet uplifting and eye-opening, and it’s a story Janie Veltkamp has to tell.
Beauty, a bald eagle, was shot by a poacher and left for dead with a shattered beak. She was rescued and brought to Birds of Prey Northwest, where she has since remained in Veltkamp’s caring hands.
“She’s such a beautiful bird, and only missing two inches of her biology,” Veltkamp said.
Beauty could never return to the wild. She would never be the same after losing such an important part of her livelihood. But Veltkamp had a dream for Beauty’s beak to be restored, to give back what was taken from her. With the help of a mechanical engineer, a veterinarian and a dentist, Veltkamp’s dream came true.
“She represents the cruelty and compassion of humans,” Veltkamp said of Beauty, who underwent surgery to have a 3D-printed prosthetic beak carefully attached to what remained of her natural beak.
“We were the first people in the world to do this,” Veltkamp said. “We wrapped her wings carefully, we calmed her as best we could with my voice, we did not use anesthesia nor have we ever used anesthesia on Beauty. She has a sense that we’re trying to help her.”
Veltkamp and co-author Deborah Lee Rose have documented this story in a children’s book titled, “Beauty and the Beak: How Science Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle.” The book was released Aug. 27.
Veltkamp held a presentation about Beauty’s story Saturday during a book launch in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.
Beauty is now 16 and a “display” bird that doesn’t travel from her home at Birds of Prey Northwest near St. Maries in northern Idaho. Although she did not make an appearance at the library, Veltkamp and her husband, Don, brought four other magnificent feathered friends with them to the event — a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, a peregrine falcon and a golden eagle — to educate and inspire the attendees
Every seat in the room was filled as the Veltkamps captivated their audience with birds of prey information, such as how environmental factors affect them, feeding habits, reverse sexual dimorphism (when the female is larger than the male, which is common with many types of raptors) and other birds of prey knowledge.
Angela Drewien brought her two young daughters to the event to help them learn about the birds they see right outside their windows where they live on acreage in Hayden. She said her 4-year-old has noticed the hawks.
“We’ve taught her that they eat the mice, we’ve also taught her that they might eat the cats,” she said. “I just wanted her to learn more about them, learn why they’re important and learn how to protect them since I thought it was super cool that they 3D-printed the beak. She’s not old enough to understand that yet, but I wanted her to see that humans are helping the animals which in turn help us.”