Santa, eagle release on tap at Red Top Mountain State Park Saturday

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With Santa’s visit coinciding with a bald eagle release, Red Top Mountain State Park will be bustling with activity Saturday.

“The week before Christmas at the Cabin is always a pretty exciting time at the park,” said Hannah Warner, Red Top’s interpretive ranger. “Everyone is getting in the holiday spirit, decorating and preparing for Santa’s visit. This year is even more exciting, because we were just informed of the eagle release — so now we have two very special guests coming to Red Top. The park staff is buzzing with excitement about Santa and the eagle, and we are all anxiously awaiting their arrival. How many chances to you get to see Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and an eagle in the same day? Needless to say, we are all very excited for Saturday.

“Saturday will be a great time to visit the park. There will be something for everyone to enjoy, whether you are bring[ing] your family for crafts and a visit to Santa, or hiking the trails — be sure to stop by the Vaughan Log Cabin for the exciting afternoon.”

As noted by Warner, Christmas at the Cabin’s activities will be centered around the 1800s log cabin — situated behind the old Park Office structure — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The main attraction will be Santa and Mrs. Claus,” Warner said. “They will be at the Vaughan Log Cabin, ready to hear about Christmas lists and take photos — bring your camera. We will be decorating the Christmas tree, making pioneer holiday crafts, dipping candles, playing games, etc. It is a chance to see what the holidays were like for pioneers.

“... This has always been a pretty popular event for the park. It is a chance to get your picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus with the beautiful backdrop of the Vaughan Log Cabin. It definitely beats waiting in line at the mall for a picture with Santa. Here, you can take your picture with Santa, play pioneer games and make crafts, hear live music and more. Plus, this year there will be the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a rehabilitated eagle being released back into the wild.”

“This eagle presented to us on July 9, [2016], after being found in ... [the Etowah River], entangled in fishing line,” said Dr. Seth Oster, primary veterinarian at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center. “... Physical examination of this juvenile bald eagle showed no fractures in the left wing, but a significant amount of soft tissue trauma over the left wing. Blood work confirmed no underlying diseases. We treated the soft tissue trauma for a six-week period. After this, this patient was transferred to an outdoor aviary to begin to rebuild its flight strength.

“In mid-November, this patient passed its flight evaluation. A recheck physical examination confirmed that all injuries had healed adequately. At that time, we began to coordinate with Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They advised on the best release location for this bird. We are, of course, pleased to return this bird to its natural habitat. This is just one of the many success stories. In total, we have rehabilitated and [released] nearly 1,400 raptors in the last 15 years.”

While admission to the Christmas at the Cabin is free, attendees will need to display an annual or a $5 daily ParkPass inside their vehicles. For more information, call 770-975-0055 or visit www.gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain.