In August of 1981, Auburn University gave USM a live male golden eagle. An aviary for the new eagle, named Nugget, was built just south of the DuBard School. Initial costs were around $40,000, much of it raised through fundraising by the Alumni Association. As the eagle matured it became increasingly aggressive and difficult to handle, and in December 1985 it was given to a breeding program in St. Louis, MO.
On Sunday, December 6, 1992, Nugget was found lying face down, dead, in its cage. A local vet did an autopsy and found shotgun pellets under its skin. They decided that Nugget had died of lead poisoning and that it had been shot about six weeks before its death. Then the US government (golden eagles were endangered or protected at the time) did its own investigation and decided that Nugget had actually starved to death.
On November 21, 2013, USM and the Hattiesburg Zoo announced a golden eagle exibit at the zoo, featuring a male golden eagle given the name "Nugget," making it Nugget III. The eagle was originally from Ojai, California, where it was found with injuries suspected to be from contact with power lines. The Southern Miss Alumni Association, Student Government Association, and USM Foundation together raised $70,000 to build an enclosure for the eagle. In order to obtain a permit from the US Department of Wildlife and Fisheries zoo staff were required to receive 300 hours of training at the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University.
- Photo of Nugget
- Another photo of Nugget
- Image of Nugget in his cage, circa 1992
- Student Printz article about the death of Nugget
- "Nugget hopes to soar once more" by Tyler Hill, The Student Printz, September 29, 2011
- The Southerner, 1993, p 49
- "The eagle has landed: Zoo, USM team up to bring 'Nugget' back to Hub City" by Jason Munz, Hattiesburg American, November 21, 2013
- "Hattiesburg Zoo, Southern Miss Forge Partnership for Golden Eagle Exhibit", Southern Miss News Now, November 22, 2013