03/19/2012 04:16 pm ET

The Final Chapters Of The Alexandria Bald Eagle's Life And Death

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — In a nondescript building on a decommissioned Army base in Colorado last week, a man with a face mask opened a cardboard box, removed a black plastic bag, snapped the seal and pulled out a bald eagle.

A black mist of eagle down filled the air, some of it settling on the man’s Tyvek lab coat.

“His tail is really nice,” declared Dennis Wiist, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialist. He held the bird in two gloved hands, briskly considering the huge dark wings folded across its trunk, the talons locked in a final clinch, the beak slightly ajar.

“And a really good head,” Wiist said as he laid the bird on the stainless steel table and began probing with practiced fingers. “That’s good; we are desperate for good heads.”

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