WILLIAMS, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Just in time for Veterans Day, animal lovers can see Bearizona Wildlife Park's first bald eagle.
The majestic bird got his name, Vernon, through a naming contest. More than 30,000 animal lovers cast their votes on social media to pick the name.
The contest called for all Bearizona fans and supporters to submit a name appropriate for such an incredible bird that represents the strength and freedom of America. The winning name was chosen out of 850 fan entries.
“Eagles are becoming more common here in Virginia and I see them a couple of times a month. My heart still jumps in excitement when I see one,” says contest winner, Laurinda Bowling of Bland, Virginia.
The name "Vernon" honors George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. Vernon is especially fitting since the first president of the United States and Bearizona's first bald eagle were both from the great state of Virginia.
According to Savannah Carleton, a second contest winner who chose the name Vernon, “Since the bald eagle is from Virginia, it seemed perfect for his name to be Vernon. But when I saw someone else had suggested it, I just decided to ‘second’ their vote. It's always fun to participate and vote when an Arizona park gets a new member and the community gets a voice in the process.”
Vernon was seriously hurt years ago after a fight in what was likely a territorial dispute, Bearizona said. He couldn't fly, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department rescued him. Vernon made his way through multiple facilities during the last decade before finding his forever home at Bearizona, officials said. The wildlife park has space and the care he needs to thrive.
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"He's very shy, but he loosens up after a few fish," said Susan Davidson, founder of High Country Raptors, in a statement. "The staff continues to learn more about him and his likes and dislikes every day, and we are doing our very best to keep Vernon feeling as comfortable and safe as possible in his new home."
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Visitors will be able to visit Vernon for the first time, along with the rest of the Bearizona residents, on Veterans Day. (Monday, Nov. 11) Free admission will be offered to all current military members and veterans
Bearizona is a popular drive- and walk-through wildlife park in Williams, Arizona, near Flagstaff. The park is devoted to providing homes to wild animals in need and promoting conservation by inviting visitors to view wildlife in spacious, natural environments that foster memorable and educational encounters with animals.
Bearizona invites guests to take a scenic, three-mile drive through packs and herds of wild animals. Then comes the "walk-through" portion of the park, as guests are invited to visit more animal exhibits on foot.
Learn more at www.bearizona.com.
We received a ton of great name suggestions for our bald eagle, many with significant meaning! After some discussion, please welcome to Bearizona, VERNON! This is Bearizona’s first bald eagle, and we named him after Mt. Vernon, the home of our first President, George Washington. pic.twitter.com/6PLdZgPviv— Bearizona (@bearizona) November 8, 2019