The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, released a young Bald Eagle on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 11 a.m. at Claytor Lake State Park.
Ed Clark, president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center, as well as other individuals who helped rescue and treat the Bald Eagle, were in attendance for the release.
The juvenile Bald Eagle was found Aug. 15 dull, unresponsive and holding its feet in a clutched position on the ground at a landfill in Dublin. The eagle was rescued by alert landfill workers and was first treated at the Companion Animal Hospital in Blacksburg by Dr. Matt McCormick. The eagle was then taken to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center in Roanoke, and then driven up to the Center’s clinic in Waynesboro.
At the Center, the patient was assigned Patient #14-1905, as the eagle is the 1,905th patient admitted to the Center during 2014.
Center vets ran a variety of diagnostic tests on the bird and provided fluids and supportive care to which the eagle responded well. On Aug. 17, the eagle was moved to one of the Center’s outdoor flight pens.
Center veterinary and rehabilitation staff has been exercising the eagle and determined the bird was ready to be returned to the wild.
“It is estimated that the Bald Eagle population of North America numbered about half a million before European settlement. With the loss of habitat, hunting, and the effects of DDT and other pesticides, the U.S. eagle population plummeted,” according to the center, but “There are now more than 1,000 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth.”
Clark struggled with the bald eagle while preparing for the release. “That’s the closest I’ve come to losing a nose in a long time,” he said jokingly. He was unsure as to the sex of the eagle, but believed it to be male. “The females’ feet are twice as big as the males … and can generate 500 lbs of pressure per square inch in the grip of their feet.” Clark said female birds are more aggressive, too.
“This young bird is completely dark,” said Clark, who explained that a young bald eagle looks very similar to a golden eagle. “When it gets to be four and a half years old, the feathers on the head and the feathers on the tail will turn white.”
Clark then released the eagle into the sky as dozens of viewers watched it fly away.
According to the Wildlife Center, since its founding in 1982, it has “treated scores of Bald Eagles, done extensive studies of environmental factors that affect eagles and other wildlife, and worked to reform laws and regulations to strengthen the protection afforded to Bald Eagles.”
Every year, about 2,600 animals, ranging from Bald Eagles to Black Bear cubs to hummingbirds and chipmunks, are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. The goal of the Center is “to treat to release” – to restore patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild.
Additional information about the Park is available at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/claytor-lake.shtml#general_information.