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'Summer of Silver' begins at museum

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Silver the Bald Eagle

Silver the bald eagle is perched above the Wanamaker Wildlife Wing at Northeastern Nevada Museum. The 'Summer of Silver' will celebrate the life and history of the eagle that lived in the Ruby Marshes about 45 years ago. 

ELKO – It’s been more than 40 years since the story of Silver the bald eagle first captivated Elko County residents.

The eagle, rehabilitated after being shot in the mountains near Juneau, Alaska, was released into the wild at the Ruby Marshes in 1974 where he became a local celebrity before being killed by a retired California police officer a year later.

Silver the bald eagle

Pictured after his release into the Ruby Marshes about 1974, Silver was known for his fearlessness towards humans and his sharp eye for fish from an angler's catch. Silver lived in the marshes for about a year until he was killed in 1975. 

Now, 43 years after his exhibit opened in the Northeastern Nevada Museum, the museum is celebrating Summer of Silver to spotlight the life of Silver through several activities, culminating in a lecture and reception featuring Silver’s handler, Larry Caughlan, in August, about 45 years after Silver was released into the wild.

An aluminum can drive kicked off the Summer of Silver during Cleanup Greenup Day last month.

It will raise funds that will go toward a new interactive, touch-screen display featuring a film about Silver’s journey from Alaska to the Ruby Marshes.

“The collection will mirror the first fundraiser that took place 43 years ago and get the community reintroduced to Silver,” said Lauren Roovaart, executive director.

“We’re involving the community because they were involved then,” she said.

The drive hearkens back to the first aluminum can drive that collected 77,000 cans to fund the first exhibit, according to a piece written about Silver by former executive director Howard Hickson for the Northeastern Nevada Museum Quarterly.

This year, the museum collected 96 pounds of cans on its first day, Roovaart said, adding that Pacific Steel & Recycling is giving them 15 cents extra for each pound they bring in. The company pays 30 cents per pound, she said.

Elko High School has already shown interest in contributing with a spare change drive, partnering with Flag View Intermediate, said D’Ette Mawson, education coordinator, adding that local home school groups are also saving cans.

The museum will also be collecting cans at mine picnics, and hopefully expand to other locations throughout the summer, Roovaart said.

Drop off locations are at the Spring Creek Association, the Elko Daily Free Press and the museum. 

The museum thanked the City of Elko for Elko Parks and Recreation and Pacific Steel, along with Sears for donating dishwasher boxes to be used for the collection.

Summer of Silver activities

This summer when visitors enter the museum, eagle decals will lead them to Silver’s new perch overlooking the animals of the Wanamaker Wildlife Wing. Roovaart said ideas are also being discussed to place the interactive display nearby.

“It would make it cool to have it on the landing,” she said.

Silver emblem 2019

The redesigned Silver emblem by Northeastern Nevada Museum registrar Robin Nunez will be featured during the Summer of Silver on items in the museum gift shop and elsewhere. 

The museum gift shop will be selling T-shirts with a new logo of Silver designed by Robin Nunez, museum registrar. Other items, including stuffed toy eagles, will also be available.

During the Second Saturday program on Aug. 10, kids will make eagle masks and be invited to march in the Nevada Day Parade wearing their masks in honor of Silver.

Silver and Larry Caughlan

Larry Caughlan and Silver were photographed in 1974 shortly before Silver was released at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle, estimated to be about 9 years old at the time, was shot in the wing near Juneau, Alaska in 1970 and was taught how to fly again by Caughlan, a wildlife biologist, in San Francisco. 

Finally, a champagne reception similar to the one that opened Silver’s display about 43 years ago will feature Caughlan on Aug. 16. Caughlan will also talk about Silver at the Brown Bag History the day before on Aug. 15.

To keep up-to-date on the Summer of Silver, follow the museum’s events on Facebook, visit or call 775-738-3418.

The online version of this article was updated to include the aluminum can drop-off locations. 

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Courts, K-12 schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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