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Barbara Chepaitis is Remarkable!!!


Many of my readers are following the story of Eagle Mitch through Facebook and my blog and the various news stories about my efforts to help our troops stationed in Afghanistan bring home the Eagle they rescued after it was shot.

After getting enormous help from Senator Schumer and his constituent liaison Caroline Wekselbaum, as well as Greta Lundeberg at the State Department, Brian Bond at White House Office of Public Engagement, Dr. Bettina Cooper at USDA and Dr. Eileen Jenkins, an army veterinarian, we are glad to say that Mitch will be coming to Berkshire Bird Paradise in early October.

On September 21, Associated Press put out a story about this, but it was very much cut from our original press release, so here is the complete announcement, with Senator Schumer’s letter from the USDA.

Please do shout out a thank you on your own Facebook pages to the Senator, to Pete Dubacher, to the young men in uniform who cared for Mitch, to anyone else involved!

I also encourage you to visit Berkshire Bird Paradise, and support Pete Dubacher’s work with a donation.


Navy Seals, Stationed in Afghanistan, Rescued And Cared for Mitch

Author Barbara Chepaitis and Schumer Cut Through Red Tape to Secure Safe Passage for Mitch

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that Mitch, an eagle rescued and cared for by Navy Seals in Afghanistan, is on his way to a bird sanctuary in the Capital Region. After rescuing Mitch, a Steppe Eagle, the Navy Seals contacted Pete Dubacher, owner of Berkshire Bird Paradise in Petersburg NY, seeking his help. Barbara Chepaitis, author of Feathers of Hope, a book about the bird sanctuary, immediately went to Senator Schumer’s office in an effort to secure Mitch’s passage to the United States.

“We hit some serious obstacles while trying to help these young men rescue their eagle, but I knew Senator Schumer would support their efforts,” Ms. Chepaitis said. “We absolutely could not have done this without him.”

Schumer was able to cut through the red tape and expedite Fish and Wildlife paperwork along with the necessary health testing for Mitch with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), so the eagle can transition to a permanent home at Berkshire Bird Paradise. He will arrive in the United States the first week in October.

“This is a great story about our caring soldiers and generous New Yorkers, I was happy to help give this effort a last boost and get Mitch here,.” Schumer said. “Some regulations at the USDA almost held this up but at the end of the day we were able to cut through the red tape and give Mitch a home right here in our backyard.”

During a routine patrol, the Navy Seals saw Mitch being shot on a rifle range. The Seals were able to rescue the eagle and tend its wounds, ensuring its survival. The service members cared for this Steppe Eagle, whom they named ‘Mitch,’ building him a cage and feeding him as he healed. They soon discovered that Mitch could no longer fly, then learned about Berkshire Bird Paradise where director Pete Dubacher offers haven to birds from around the world, including many permanently injured eagles.

“I started rescuing birds when I was in service during the Vietnam war,” Dubacher said. “I know how tough it is for these young men to do what they did. Senator Schumer really stepped up to the plate for them, and for Mitch. As a veteran, I can’t thank him enough.”

A current ban on the import of birds from Afghanistan due to threat of Avian flu almost prevented bringing Mitch there. Schumer, through a personal letter, made it possible for Mitch to receive a one-time exemption once it was assured that he was disease-free.

“Of course, we want to preserve the health laws, but we also knew that Mitch was a special case, destined for a sanctuary rather than public market. Senator Schumer’s letter made that clear, which meant those at the USDA who wanted to help were able to move forward,” Ms. Chepaitis said. “Everyone involved is very excited at being able to see this to a happy conclusion.”

Mitch is currently slated to come to the U.S. the first week in October, where he will undergo precautionary tests until he is transferred to Berkshire Bird Paradise, where the thousands of schoolchildren who visit every year will have the opportunity to hear a very special story, of a very special eagle.

The text of Schumer’s letter is below:

August 3, 2010

Cindy Smith
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Re: Steppe Eagle from Afghanistan

Dear Ms. Smith:

Last month, my constituents Barbara Chepaitis and Pete Dubacher told me the incredible story of Navy SEALS stationed in Afghanistan who had rescued and were caring for a wounded Steppe Eagle. The SEALS sought the assistance of Mr. Dubacher of Berkshire Bird Paradise bird sanctuary in upstate New York to find a permanent home for this wounded bird, who had been shot. With the help of my office and the persistent efforts of Ms. Chepaitis and Mr. Dubacher, the Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an import permit and the Afghan Government has issued an export permit for the eagle.

Unfortunately, there is currently a ban on the import of avian species from Afghanistan, due to the threat of avian flu. My constituents are seeking a waiver of the ban on the import for this particular bird. I would urge you to issue this waiver, after thoroughly evaluating the bird to ensure that it is disease-free, that it undergoes the required quarantine and poses no threat to US species. I strongly believe that this bird merits special consideration based on the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his rescue by US Navy SEALS. This unusual story has received media attention and serves as an inspirational reminder of the heroism of US Armed Forces deployed around the world.

I know I can count on your cooperation in reviewing this matter and advising me of your findings as expeditiously as possible. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Caroline Wekselbaum in my New York City Office at (212) 486-4430. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and attention to this matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Maxwell C. Young
Press Secretary
US Senator Charles E. Schumer
W: 202 224 7433
From: Wekselbaum, Caroline (Schumer)

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 6:55 pm and is filed under Clients, Friends and Colleagues, Press Releases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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