WASHINGTON BORO, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s release day at Raven Ridge Wildlife Center, for an adult bald eagle the State Game Commission brought in roughly a month ago.
“The bird came in, it was grounded for a few hours, wasn’t able to move.” Tracie Young, the Center’s rehabber, said. “She was wet, cold, kind of neurologic, like not really there.”
The Center always tests eagles, hawks, and other raptors for lead poisoning, which the birds usually ingest when they scavenge the remains of animals shot by hunters. Sure enough, the eagle tested positive. Young started treating the bird for the lead and found another problem.
“She had cast a deer hoof. So now we know where the lead poisoning came from, but also, she was not able to digest it. So therefore she was suffering from sour crop, which is when they’re not able to digest the food. It gets stuck in the crop, it builds up a bacteria, and it goes septic. So she was fighting two potentially deadly conditions at the same time,” Young said.
The eagle recovered and proved to be one feisty bird. Young, with the help of volunteer Rosemarie Curcio, had to get her into a travel crate. Let us note here, that trying to catch an angry bald eagle in a blanket, while it tries to eviscerate you with its talons, is not a job for the faint of heart. There were several loud thumps as the eagle crashed into the walls trying to avoid Young, but she was finally able to catch her up in the blanket. Curcio slipped a hood over the bird’s head, and they were finally able to slide her into the crate.
Young took the eagle to York County. We’re not going to specify where, but safe to mention it was near where she was found. Game Commissioner Justin Ritter helped Young carry the crate uphill to a large, open field. Young opened the crate, and the bird went up.
And came right back down.
“Sometimes these releases don’t go as planned,” Young said. “You picture a perfect plan of the eagle taking off into the sunset. And sometimes they just needed to get their bearings.”
But after a second, then a third failed takeoff, Young started preparing for the worst. If the eagle couldn’t or wouldn’t fly, she would have to recapture it.
“The thing with wildlife is they can mask their injuries, and they can fool you,” Young said.
Young carefully approached the eagle with the blanket. Maybe she got close enough to trigger a flight response, or the bird worked out the kinks, or she just got the wind beneath her wings. In any event, she made a strong takeoff, disappeared over a rise in the field, then…soared.
“She started gaining height,” Young said. “And she just took right off, and circled up and around.”
“It is a good feeling.”