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Rehabilitated Bald Eagle to Be Released
November 29, 2004
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida will release a rehabilitated, 14-year-old female bald eagle into the wild on Tuesday, November 30, 2004. The release occurs on the 20th anniversary of Alabama’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project.
The event will take place at Historic Blakely State Park, a 3,800-acre site in Spanish Fort, Alabama. Media should meet Ruffin Flowers from Luckie Strategic Public Relations at the main entrance of Blakely State Park at 9:00 a.m. You will be escorted to the release site.
“This represents our ongoing commitment to our restored bald eagle population in Alabama,” says Corky Pugh, director, Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “We’re looking forward to a successful release.”
The female bald eagle was injured during a fight with another bald eagle in November 2003 in the Mobile, Alabama suburb of Chickasaw. A Good Samaritan rescued the eagle from the Mobile River and gave it to Susan Clement with the Mobile Environmental Studies Center who transported it to her veterinarian for emergency care. Later, other veterinarians from the Westside Animal Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, treated the bald eagle for a major laceration on its thigh. The bird’s injuries were so severe that it required several surgeries and had to be treated for several infections.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to know that this bald eagle is about to be released into the wild,” says Dr. Tom Knight, a veterinarian with the Westside Animal Hospital.
The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida has been caring for the bald eagle since November of 2003. The organization has cared for more than 30,000 wild animals, including about 15 eagles, since 1982.
“This is one of the feistiest bald eagles we’ve ever taken care of,” says Dorothy Kaufmann, director of the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. “That feistiness dramatically increases its chances of surviving in the wild.”
Resee Collins, with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will transport the eagle to the release site. The eagle will be hooded during the drive.
“Most eagles become so relaxed when hooded, they’ll fall asleep during the ride to the site,” says Collins, who has released more than 200 eagles into the wild.
Steps to a Safe and Successful Eagle Release
- In order to give the eagle the maximum opportunity to fly away safely, media attending the release will be asked to stand at a slight angle to the bird.
- It’s important that no one is directly in front of or surrounding the bird to prevent the eagle from feeling threatened and possibly attacking.
- Everyone will be asked to be quiet as the hood is removed from the eagle and the eagle looks around to survey its surroundings.
- The eagle will then be gently tossed into the air.
“While this bald eagle has been in captivity for a year, it’s still a wild animal, which makes it hard to predict its behavior when it’s released,” says Collins. “The eagle may fly off, land in a nearby tree, or simply fly to the ground. We’re all hoping for a National Geographic moment, but you never know what will happen.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has released 91 juvenile eagles (11-12 weeks old) into the wild since the Bald Eagle Restoration Project was established in 1984. As of 2003, there were 53 known active bald eagle nests in the state. Five of the nests are located in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Nests are monitored each year by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division personnel.
Bald eagles are a threatened species. The population dwindled in the 1950s and 1960s due to the devastating effects of DDT, which was banned in 1972. When the Bald Eagle Restoration Project began in Alabama in 1984, bald eagles had not nested in the state since 1949. That changed in 1991, with the first successful eagle nest in Jackson County, Alabama.
“This rehabilitated eagle we are releasing into the wild should be able to breed and live a normal lifespan of 30 to 50 years,” says Collins.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes the statewide stewardship and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. The department also advises the state government on management of freshwater fish, wildlife, marine resources, waterway safety, state lands, state parks and other natural resources. This includes the administration, management and maintenance of 24 state parks, 23 public fishing lakes, three freshwater fish hatcheries, 34 wildlife management areas, two waterfowl refuges, two wildlife sanctuaries, a mariculture center with 35 ponds and 645,000 acres of trust lands. Other departmental functions include maintenance of a State Land Resource Information Center and administration of the Forever Wild land acquisition program.