The bald eagle that was found starving in an Alaska landfill had lost her upper mandible, and was close to death. In simple language, the bullet had shot off Beauty's curved upper beak, which left her tongue and sinuses totally exposed. The remaining stump was useless for the injured bald eagle to grasp her food, drink water or preen feathers.
Typically, a wild eagle that is hand-fed by humans is usually euthanized due to a 40-year lifespan, said Jane Fink Cantwell, who was responsible for the raptor recovery center in Idaho at that time. But when Beauty arrived from Anchorage, Cantwell began feeding her strips of salmon with tongs.
Cantwell described Beauty's remaining beak similar to that of a chopstick. According to Fox News
, the eagle was originally taken to a bird recovery center in Anchorage, where she was hand-fed, while her caretakers waited in vain for a new beak to grow. Eventually, Beauty would be taken to the Birds of Prey Northwest in Idaho under Cantwell's care.
Because of the medical condition of the 15-year old eagle, the first prosthetic beak
in the world was developed by a team of researchers, engineers and dentist. The beak was modeled with CAD software and 3D-printed from nylon polymers, designed by a Boise engineer named Calvin who offered to design an artificial beak.
"As an engineer, as a human being first, I was interested in helping it out," Calvin said after he talked to Cantwell, spending 200 hours designing the complex beak. Molds of the remaining beak were made and scanned into a computer in order for the artificial beak to be created accurately. After a two-hour surgery, Cantwell cradled the eagle and prepared to return Beauty to her aviary, saying: "The eagle has landed, and she has a beak."
Today, Beauty can eat and drink by herself at the Birds of Prey Northwest, the conservation facility that spearheaded the recovery project. "She's got a grill," joked Nate Calvin. This grill formation came from a bit of the synthetic beak becoming exposed during its application. Not a bad thing, as her new beak is only a temporary fix that was developed to nail down precise measurements for the eagle's survival.
Eventually, a final nylon-composite beak will be created of a tougher material to be attached at a later date. The Boeing Co. and a maker of synthetic skin in California has volunteered to help make the permanent beak. Meanwhile, Beauty and Cantrall are planning on attending conferences and activities to inform the public about the bald eagle, teaching people not to shoot at raptors.