Bald eagle released in HS man’s honor
The life of the late Caton Alexander Jones was commemorated with the release of a bald eagle on the shores of Lake Hamilton Sunday afternoon.
The release, which took place from the Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery on the anniversary of his death, drew a crowd of people eager to watch the eagle soar over the lake. The release was a joint effort of the Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Rescue Center and Caton’s Cubs, a nonprofit organization started by Jones’ mother, Lisa.
“Eagles were one of Caton’s favorite things,” Lisa Jones said.
Caton Jones died in November after battling osteosarcoma and life-threatening injuries from a car wreck for nearly a year. Lisa Jones said she got the idea of releasing the eagle after watching the rescue center’s last eagle release, which was immediately preceded by the death of center director Thomas Young’s father.
“The Native American belief is that eagles take the soul to heaven, so when I tossed him up, I said, ‘I feel like he’s taking my daddy’s spirit to heaven,’” Young said of his last release. “She wanted the same thing for Caton.”
Lisa Jones also said she wanted to support the wildlife center by drawing a crowd of potential donors. The Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Rescue Center has released just over 80,000 rescue animals back into the wildlife since its conception 33 years ago.
She said Caton Jones enjoyed visiting the center’s zoo at Queen Wilhelmina State Park when he was growing up.
“We wanted to support the zoo through his memory,” Lisa Jones said.
The eagle that was released over Lake Hamilton was rescued by Arkansas State Police Trooper 1st Class Terry Sawyer, who located the wounded bird on the side of the road while on duty. Though Sawyer was unable to attend the release, another state trooper and corporal were present on his behalf Sunday afternoon.
The bald eagle is the 93rd one that has been released in the rescue center’s existence. Young explained that the funds collected at Sunday’s eagle release will help fund the rehabilitation and release of the rescue center’s next bald eagle.
“If you can do two things at once, that’s a no-brainer,” Young said.
Before the eagle’s release, Lee Standing Bear Moore, of the Manataka American Indian Council, said the release of the eagle represents “freedom of spirit.” Young then took the eagle out of the back of a vehicle and took it to the water’s edge, where Standing Bear blessed it.
Young then let the bird fly west over the lake.
Young said he hopes the release gave Lisa Jones “a feeling of closure.”
“I know it made me feel better when I released mine,” he said.
READY TO RELEASE: Thomas Young, president of Arkansas Native Plant & Wildlife Rescue Center, prepares to release a rescued bald eagle over Lake Hamilton in honor of the late Caton Jones Sunday afternoon.