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Beauty and the beak: Deformed Alaska bald eagle gets a prosthetic (+VIDEO)

Alaska Dispatch

An unusual bald eagle was spotted in 2005 scrounging at an Alaska landfill. She'd been shot in the face -- presumably by poachers -- and left completely deformed, the curve of her upper beak gone, exposing sinuses and tongue. In this condition, living in the wilds of the north, the eagle's survival on its own was highly unlikely.

The eagle was taken to a raptor recovery center in Anchorage, given the name "Beauty" and rehabilitated with hopes her beak would "grow back." When it didn't, Jane Fink Cantwell agreed to take Beauty in.

Cantwell is the operator of the recovery center Birds of Prey Northwest, a ranch outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. In a 2008 interview, she told the Associated Press that deformity had left Beauty helpless: she couldn't feed herself or preen. Cantwell thought Beauty would most likely be euthanized.

Enter Nate Calvin. The engineer teamed up with Cantwell to design a "new grill," a Nylon-composite beak that would make do until Calvin could provide a permanent prosthetic. 

Almost four years later and thanks to advances in 3-D modeling, Beauty has a new beak.

Cantwell and Calvin have produced a new beak design, with help from three-dimensional printing, that will reportedly allow Beauty to eat drink and preen herself alone, according to Grist. And while Beauty may never return to the wilds of Alaska, she should at least enjoy a relatively comfortable life in Idaho.

Beauty and the Beak from Keith Bubach on Vimeo.