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Arizona game and fish brings vulture to state capitol

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."

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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