Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Eagle gains new lease on life

April 22, 2004

The New Year brought a new chance for life for a female American Bald Eagle, which returned to the wild Monday after being captive for nearly four months.

Operation Wildlife, a rehabilitation service for injured and orphaned wild animals, released the rehabilitated female American Bald Eagle at the Wyandotte County Lake Park in Kansas City, Kan. The bird had come to Operation Wildlife Jan. 1 with an impact fracture to the humerus of the right wing.

After orthopedic surgery to repair the wing and months of rehabilitation, Operation Wildlife was able to release the eagle back to the wild Monday; the only question was how it would be best to do it.

"Normally I'd toss her in the air, but she's two feet tall, and I like my face," said Operation Wildlife director Diane Johnson.

So the top of the Eagle's portable kennel was removed, and the 13-pound bird with a 6 1/2-foot wingspan quickly took flight. She soared to the opposite side of the lake and gave some geese a scare.

The injured Eagle was found in a field in Burlington, Kan., and Johnson

guessed that she was about two to three years old because she did not yet have the white crown characteristic of mature bald eagles. Operation Wildlife placed an intramedullary pin with external fixtures in the bone to repair the wing.

Johnson said they normally shoot for only 90 days of captivity to keep animals from becoming too tame, so they were running a little late to release the eagle.

Operation Wildlife, founded in 1989, rehabilitates about 5,000 animals every year, and it is the largest publicly funded wildlife clinic in Kansas, according to Kansas Wildlife and Parks statistics.

"We take care of anything that walks, crawls, or flies across Kansas," Johnson said.

Now that the Eagle is allowed to roam free, Johnson speculates that it will not be long before she heads to cooler northern climates, as most eagles do.

"If fishing is good and food is available, she might stick around for a while," Johnson said. "I think it'll get too hot, and she'll go north with the rest."

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