by James Coulter
Two months after being discovered near a fallen tree following a storm, a rescued bald eagle has been returned to the wild.
The eagle was released on Knoll Hill at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales on Saturday. Several dozen curious spectators gathered to take a glimpse at the bird as it was released and took flight.
The bald eagle was transported to Bok Tower by volunteers from the Audubon Society, who had delivered the bird from the Raptor Center of Tampa Bay in Brandon.
The spectators were able to get a glimpse of the eagle up closer before they were instructed to watch its release from the bottom of the hill.
The bird’s handlers unlocked its shackles and removed its hood before allowing the bird to first fly to the crest of the hill, and then take flight toward the south.
“It is an exciting and beautiful day,” said Catherine Price, wife of David Price, President of Bok Tower Gardens. “It is wonderful. There are a lot of bad things happening in the world, but this was a good thing that happened. A lot of people came out to see an eagle released. So it’s a great beautiful day.”
The female eagle was found lying on the ground on a side road on Walk in the Water Road in Lake Wales on Sep. 12. Ricky Norris, a county employee, discovered the eagle next to a fallen tree the night following a bad storm.
“So, we are thinking the eagle was in the tree when the tree came down, or it was hit by a tree when it came down. Not sure how it happened,” said Cathy Terry, a local member of the Audubon Society Eagle Watch.
Upon being notified of the injured bird, Terry called the Raptor Center of Tampa Bay. She then called Catherine Price to ask if she had something to transport the bird in. Price replied that she had a chicken cage and volunteered to deliver the bird.
So, Price drove to the location of the injured eagle and then drove it to Bartow, where it was then transported to the Raptor Center of Tampa. Price mentioned that the bird was discovered in bad condition, thus raising doubts about the likelihood of its survival.
“When Ricky picked it up, the bird was limp,” she said. “She laid her head down and closed her eyes. We looked at her and said there was no way. He found another juvenile who died. [And yet] she perked up a little bit in the car.”
The eagle remained at the Raptor Center where it was treated and rehydrated with fluids through subcutaneous transmission. After two months, the eagle had recovered to the point where it could be released back into the wild.
Bok Tower Gardens was chosen as the release location as it was close to where the eagle was discovered. The only reason it was not released in the location where it was found was because of three other eagles’ nests within the area, Terry explained.
“Normally, you would release an eagle where they were found because they may have mates or babies there,” she said. “But in this case, [we] were not sure which nest she came from. Even if she came from a nest there, there are three monitored eagles’ nests there in a three-mile radius. If we release her there, and none of them are her nests, she will get into a territory fight with the other eagles. They have a two-mile radius around the nest. So, if it is hers, Bok Tower is not too far away that she can’t find her way back home.”
Terry mentioned how very few injured birds can recover. As such, many of them are sent to animal control to be euthanized. This eagle was one of the lucky ones to survive and be returned to the wild. Being able to help that bird recover and see it released and take flight is nothing short of a miraculous experience, Terry said.
“They were pretty happy that she will get to go free,” she said. “Not everybody gets to rescue a bald eagle, and not everybody gets to see one released. It is an amazing experience.”