Meet Sevier County’s Hometown Hero, Challenger
When not busy making public appearances, Challenger is at home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is cared for by the American Eagle Foundation, a nonprofit that partners with the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge.
Like all of the birds of prey housed by the American Eagle Foundation, Challenger would not survive in the wild. But he has no physical disability. Challenger was born in Louisiana in 1989, knocked from his nest during a storm, and rescued by local people. Although his foster parents saved his life, since he was so young at that time he learned to depend on humans. Every time scientists attempted to release Challenger into the wild, he wouldn’t hunt like a typical eagle and would instead approach people to beg for food. After three release attempts it became clear that Challenger would not survive on his own and so he came to live at the American Eagle Foundation.
Challenger was trained to perform by the American Eagle Foundation as part of its mission to educate people about bald eagles and the importance of protecting them. While you might see Challenger at a major event anywhere across the nation, if you really want to meet him plan a trip to Sevier County.
To meet Challenger, schedule a free tour at the American Eagle Foundation headquarters, which is located just a few minutes away from Dollywood. Tours are offered Monday through Thursday mornings beginning at 9:30 a.m. and must be requested at least seven days in advance by filling out this online form.
Challenger is a star, but he isn’t the only eagle you can visit in Sevier County.