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Something to CROW about: Rescued eagle released into the wild

By Staff | Jan 21, 2012

A bald eagle that was rescued and taken to CROW on Sanibel a month ago was released back into the wild this week at the Eagle Preserve in St. James City.

The initial rescue took place after numerous ospreys attacked the eagle on Dec. 16. Many residents on Clyde Street witnessed the attack and called for help. The residents believed that the multiple ospreys injured her left wing, which kept her from seeking shelter from the attacks.

The attack occurred over a squirrel, witnesses believe.

The eagle -the largest female on Pine Island – was placed in a cage with a blanket over the top of it to keep her calm during her return journey from Sanibel to St. James City. Robin Bast, CROW senior staff wildlife rehabilitator, said the bird was quiet almost the entire trip, until she began making noise the last few miles before she arrived at the Eagle preserve.

A small gathering of people, along with staff from CROW, met on Castile Road in St. James City to witness the bird’s release. After Bast and Rachel Rainbolt, a volunteer, took the carrier from the vehicle to a spot on the side of the road, the two women removed the blanket from the cage and opened the door to let the eagle free.

Without hesitation, the eagle left the cage and went straight to the fence that encloses the preserve. After a couple minutes of running into the fence and gathering her bearings, she spread her wings and took off into the air where she found a tree branch on which to sit.

Some of those who witnessed the event had tears in their eyes as they watched the successful release take place before them.

“I feel really good,” Bast said. “This is the most rewarding part of the job to see the end goal of what we do to get them back from where they came from.”

Phil Buchanan, a volunteer with CROW who helped the residents of Clyde Street rescue the eagle, said much to his surprise, she did not immediately fly to her nest upon release.

“Instead, she took up a perch in a nearby tree and watched the people watching her until she thought everybody left,” he said. “Then she returned to her nest and her incredibly faithful mate, who has carefully guarded the nest and her eggs for the last month.”

Buchanan said she sat on her nest all Wednesday afternoon admiring the skinny, awkward, naked eaglet.

“Her mate is, I suppose, overjoyed to have her back,” he said in reference to the bird soaring all over St. James City and chattering all afternoon.

Bast said when the eagle first arrived at CROW they did a full exam and took some X-rays, which came back showing no significant damage.

Certified veterinarian technician Jeana Harms said it was great to see that the X-rays showed the eagle had no structural damage. The eagle received pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication in her food so she could slowly gain back her strength.

Rainbolt said the eagle was the first major animal she had the opportunity to work with since she began working at the clinic last summer.

“This was mind boggling for me and a really rewarding experience,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I couldn’t be more blessed to have this organization.”

Rainbolt did outside maintenance, along with injecting the eagle’s medication into a rat to give to her.

Harms said when you provide both pain and anti-inflammatory medication together, it will allow the eagle to heal faster and better.

“When you reduce swelling you get a quicker recovery time,” she said.

Bast said she was flying really well in the large flight cage, which helped them determine that she was ready to return to the wild. She said the flight cage has an angle in it, so they can determine if the eagle is able to fly around corners well.

Although her left wing still drops a little, Bast said she can do the rest of her healing in the wild on her own.

“It only drops when she is stressed out,” she said about her wing.