Search for SWFL famous bald eagle Harriet continues, some fear the worst
It's been nearly two days since an iconic local eagle has been gone from her nest.
The disappearance of Harriet, who's been around the Pritchett/McSpadden family for about 16 years, has everyone wondering what happened, and what's next for her partner, M-15, as well as their babies E21 and E22.
Harriet was last seen Thursday.
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Harriet has been part of the Pritchett family "through all the ups and downs," said Ginnie Pritchett McSpadden. The eagles are famous nationwide and fans on social media have been very active, some fearing the worst, some praying and offering hope that she may return.
Here's what we know:
When did the Pritchetts start the project?
Pritchett McSpadden co-founded Southwest Florida Eagle Cam in 2012, when Harriet and then-mate Ozzie landed on their property. This is their 11th season, she said.
"We started the cameras back when the Eagles nested on our land, and put the cameras in the tree and the last kind of 11 years ... 11 seasons have been a whirlwind," Pritchett McSpadden told The News-Press.
The eagle nest is located 60 feet above the ground, in a slash pine tree.
With more than 140,000 subscribers on YouTube, the eagles in Southwest Florida bring visitors regularly to watch the daily activities of the two adult eagles as they repair their nest, regularly fly in to feed two hungry youngsters and keep a watchful eye on what's happening.
The livestream, made available by Dick Pritchett Real Estate in North Fort Myers, provides a peek into the eagles' lives.
The nest is located on the north side of Bayshore Drive in North Fort Myers. Visitors park along the driveway to the Pritchett property or at the nearby North Fort Myers Church of the Nazarene.
"Harriet has been our mainstay matriarch eagle laying, nesting and raising eagles," Pritchett McSpadden said. "It's for everyone to watch, and unfortunately this season I think it's coming up on 40 hours of not seeing or spotting Harriet in the area."
Pritchett McSpadden added that this is an uncommon behavior for Harriet.
"We are continuing to hope that she returns safely and uninjured," Pritchett McSpadden said.
Rarely gone for so long
Pritchett McSpadden says it's rare for Harriet to be gone for than 12 hours at a time.
"Usually it's way less than that," Pritchett McSpadden said. "This behavior really has never been seen before. Unfortunately, we are not sure if and when she will return."
She said the family drove around the property again Saturday morning, attempting to locate Harriet.
"This morning we were up early driving our property trying to find her, just because we don't authorize other people in the public to go on our property," Pritchett McSpadden said. "We did everything we could to try to spot her. And unfortunately, our efforts were not successful."
How can viewers help?
"We're letting viewers know now that the best thing we can do is pray and hope for the best," she said. "I think everyone is just overwhelmingly sad and worried."
Pritchett McSpadden calls for caution.
"We don't want people going out into our property or surrounding areas and getting lost or injured looking for Harriet," Pritchett McSpadden said. "The best thing they can do is keep an eye out, and if they happen to see an injured eagle on the ground, to call CROW."
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, known by the acronym CROW, saves wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine, according to their website.
Eaglets in the nest
For much of Saturday, eaglets E21 and E22 were the only two birds in the nest, awaiting their mother's return.
As Pritchett McSpadden tried to find a word to describe the family's famous companion, all she could think of was "Harriet."
"She's Harriet. She's been around since day one through all the drama," Pritchett McSpadden said.
Her original mate Ozzie died in 2015 after a fight with a youngster. He was Harriet's first-ever partner. Then, M-15 took over the nest with Harriet.
"Harriet's been our number one since we started this, so right now we're kind of just in this weird numb stage where we really, really just hope for the best and that she returns," Pritchett McSpadden said.
She added that M-15 has been very diligent and amazing the last 48 hours, protecting the eaglets and providing as much food as possible by himself.
"It's been amazing to watch," she said. "Very surreal, just because it is such a sad, sad and uncertain time, but we'll continue to watch, wait, see and hope that she returns."
In the unfortunate event Harriet doesn't return, Pritchett McSpadden said she won't lose hope for M-15 and the eaglets.
"Nature and wildlife ... They continue on," Pritchett McSpadden said. "So we'll have to see what happens here. It's just going to be a very, very interesting and [a] very educational learning experience for all of us."
Harriet deeply missed
Harriet inspired Pritchett McSpadden to write two children's books in 2017 and 2019, around the time she became a new mother, she said.
"It definitely pulls at my heartstrings because I've written two children's books, 'A Day With Harriet' and 'Harriet's Next Adventure,'" Pritchett McSpadden said. "So to think that there won't be Harriet anymore, it's really sad."
Pritchett McSpadden said the books came to fruition after she saw in Harriet a lot of the same habits and parental styles humans have in trying to keep her eaglets alive and putting them first.
"Doing whatever you can to make sure they're safe and flourishing," she added. "It was just a lot of similarities. And I was very inspired by it to write the books. Then, just the natural process of eaglets growing and leaving the nest, so it was just a natural fit for me."
Pritchett McSpadden said Harriet was "just a magnificent matriarch."
"She was the leader ... She was the nest ... She was the boss," she said. "She just always was teaching him because he was much younger than her."
Pritchett McSpadden said she wants to avoid lamenting Harriet's departure just yet.
"I think it'll be a big shift for the nest," Pritchett McSpadden said. "And I just hope that we will be able to continue watching the eaglets and see what happens with a potential new age. What's going to happen, this is all new territory for us."
Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran and Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Harriet the eagle has gone missing: Search continues for iconic SWFL star