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Massive golden eagle mural in Midvale a story of resilience and inspiration

Phoenix rose from the flames to educate people about threats to wildlife For immediate release: June 7, 2023 Contacts: Chris Peterson, artist, Gr8west@gmail.com Brett Prettyman, chair of the Utah Wildlife Federation board, tbprettyman@gmail.com MIDVALE, Utah — The larger-than-life animals Chris Peterson paints on the sides of buildings are meant to inspire, impassion, and engage people who see them. Few realize that sometimes Peterson’s creations have stories of their own. The massive golden eagle Peterson created for the Los Muros on Main mural festival in Midvale is based on a living eagle named Phoenix rescued as an eaglet after a wildfire on the west side of Utah Lake turned his nest to ash and left the still flightless raptor on the ground, burned, and fending for himself. ‘We thought the story of Phoenix would resonate with people as an example of all the threats wildlife face daily. Many of the threats are caused by humans,” said Peterson. Phoenix now has his likeness and story for all to see as the second mural as part of the Utah Wildlife Walls project, a partnership with Peterson and the Utah Wildlife Federation to create wildlife murals with meaning across the state. A celebration of the mural is being held as part of the festival from 4-9 p.m. Saturday, June 10, 2023, at 676 West Main Street in Midvale. A live golden eagle named Chrys will be on hand, literally, from 5-6 p.m. thanks to the staff at HawkWatch International. Chrys became an outreach animal after being hit by a car. Children, and creative adults, will be able to paint their own eagles at the event. The Dump Fire burned in June of 2012 near Saratoga Springs and, the appropriately named, Eagle Mountain. It was started by people target shooting and led to more than 9,000 people being evacuated from their nearby homes. Phoenix was rescued by a long-time raptor volunteer several days after the fire and taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. He was nursed to health, given his name and became a part of the outreach team for the center because his injuries prevented Phoenix from returning to the wild. His job was to help people learn about eagles in Utah and things we can do to protect them. And then the second life-threatening event happened. Phoenix picked up the deadly West Nile virus, another major threat to all avian species. He was nearly lost again but pulled through with the care of the staff at the center. Damage to a leg and talon from the virus left him unable to grip a perch. His outreach days are now limited, much like the facility where he was brought back to health. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center was recently told it had to move from its location in Ogden. After several attempts to secure an extension to allow the staff to find a new home, the center had to start turning away injured wildlife because they will not have a place to care for them. “It’s kind of like Phoenix. He’s a survivor of a raging wildlife and West Nile and now facing the loss of a home and the urgent need for the wildlife community to rally around the center to help find him, and so many other injured creatures, a new home,” Peterson said. Nikki Wayment, executive director at HawkWatch International and also a board member of the Utah Wildlife Federation, said it’s important to educate people about the threats to all wildlife and outreach animals are an effective way to motivate protection. “These long lived birds face many threats, including electrocution, vehicle collisions, and impacts of invasive species like cheatgrass in their preferred habitat,” Wayment said. “HawkWatch International has been focusing intensely on golden eagles for more than a decade to understand the threats they face and how those threats can be mitigated.” Golden eagles were officially recognized by the Utah Legislature as the state bird of prey in 2022. Wayment said because they are so charismatic and visible because of their migrations, golden eagles are revered by many native cultures and represented on the flags of many nations, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Egypt, and Mexico. Speaking of that, to honor the local community, Peterson and the Utah Wildlife Federation, decided to not only honor Phoenix, but also those Utahns who have a connection to Mexico. The Mexican flag portrays a golden eagle clinching a rattlesnake while standing on a prickly pear cactus. Peterson included all these things in the mural and, while Phoenix is the star, the official name of the mural is “Aguilar de Feugo” or Eagle of Fire. For DaLyn Marthhaler, director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, knowing an eagle she rescued, and not just once, will be seen by so many on the mural is exciting and rewarding. “The mural is as beautiful and majestic as Phoenix. It really captures the spirit and intensity of golden eagles. May it give everyone who sees it the courage and strength to overcome adversity,” Marthhaler said. #### Attached photo of the Aguilar de Fuego mural as a work in progress courtesy of Chris Peterson.


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