Auburn's golden eagle 'Tiger' has died at age 34, university officials announced on Wednesday.
Tiger underwent surgery for a cataract in her left eye on Tuesday and was recovering when she took a turn for the worse overnight. She passed away on June 18 at age 34.
She's believed to be one of the oldest golden eagles to live in captivity.
See the press release from Auburn below:
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Famed golden eagle Tiger, a symbol of the Auburn University spirit for nearly 30 years, died June 18, 2014. At 34, she was believed to be among the oldest golden eagles in captivity.
On Aug. 31, 2000, Tiger, who was also known as War Eagle VI, was the first eagle to fly free in Jordan-Hare Stadium. For seven years, she flew at home football games and was retired following her 2006 flight at the Auburn-Georgia game.
Tiger underwent surgery June 17 to remove a cataract in her left eye, when a team of veterinarians determined surgery was needed. "The cataract was progressing, and without surgery a complete loss of vision was expected," said Dr. Jamie Bellah, director of the Southeastern Raptor Center and head of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Clinical Sciences.
"Tiger came through surgery and anesthesia well and progressed normally during recovery," said Bellah. "A turn for the worse occurred during the night. We, like the Auburn family, are heartbroken by her death." A post-mortem examination (necropsy) has been requested. Plans for a memorial are pending.
In 2012, veterinary ophthalmologists performed successful cataract surgery in her right eye. Months later, the retina of that eye detached, and caused her to lose vision in that eye.
Nova is War Eagle VII, and he, along with Spirit, an American bald eagle, now fly during pregame ceremonies at home football games.
Tiger came to Auburn from Kentucky where she was being held by federal agents from an illegal breeding operation in St. Louis, Mo. She arrived in Auburn on Oct. 8, 1986 at six years old.
Until 2000, Tiger was under the care of the Delta Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega at Auburn, which cared for Auburn eagles for 40 years and grew the tradition to what it is today. Alpha Phi Omega is a national, coeducational service organization founded on the principles of leadership, friendship and service. A Phi O's connection to the eagle started in 1960. War Eagle VI's former handlers visited Tiger this past October during a reunion.
In 2000, the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine's Southeastern Raptor Center assumed responsibility for the eagle.
Tiger became the first Auburn eagle to free fly at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 31, 2000. In 2002, Tiger made an internationally-televised flight during opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics and she has appeared in thousands of educational programs to support the mission of the Southeastern Raptor Center, a division of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Tiger made her last stadium flight prior to the Georgia game in 2006. A halftime retirement ceremony recognized her contributions to the Auburn community and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's conservation mission. She was also recognized during the 2013 football season's opening game on Aug. 31 on the 13th anniversary of her first free flight.
The average lifespan of a Golden Eagle is 28 years.
About the Southeastern Raptor Center
The Southeastern Raptor Center's mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors and to educate the public about their role and importance and to research raptor-related issues. The Southeastern Raptor Center, a division of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, is given permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to house, care for and showcase birds of prey in its educational mission.
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