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Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Education Coordinator Sam Husselton displays a turkey vulture Thursday at the Arizona State Capitol. (KTAR photo/Bob McClay)
PHOENIX -- If you hang out at the Arizona State Capitol long enough, you're bound to see some important people and some interesting things.

Sometimes, those things play a bigger role than you could imagine. That was the case Monday, when Arizona Game and Fish Department had a turkey vulture named Edwina at the state capitol.

The bird with a six-foot wingspan is cared for by volunteers at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center in the North Valley, and Sam Husselton, a wildlife education coordinator with the game and fish department, said birds like Edwina are a vital part of Arizona's desert ecosystem.

"They're really unique because they eat all of our dead stuff," Husselton said. "They help clean up the desert. They help clean up the mountains. They have an excellent sense of smell. They're one of the few birds in Arizona that have that excellent sense of smell so that they can detect that dead stuff from a long ways off."

Husselton said the purpose of bringing Edwina to the Capitol was to show her off to the Legislators, and that the bird has an injured left win and has been with the department since 1996. Husselton added that turkey vultures get their name because the color of their head resemble that of a turkey.

"Edwina is one of our ambassador animals," Husselton said. "She goes out and displays for people. She likes to spread her wings. She's a ham in front of the camera, that's for sure.

"We want to have people see our animal ambassadors and have some appreciation for the native wildlife that we have here in Arizona. Our ambassadors are all injured or have a reason that they can't be released into the wild, so we use them for education."

Bob McClay, Reporter

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