Bald Eagle Released After Yearlong Rehabilitation

A bald eagle was released into the wild at Oak Grove Lake park in Chesapeake, Virginia, on October 18 after spending almost a year in care because of bad injuries.

The female eagle was taken in by staff at the Wildlife Center of Virginia around a year ago with “a litany of injuries”, wildlife center president Ed Clark said.

The eagle had an injury to its elbow which caused a loss of wing muscle. When it was released on October 18, it was the first time the veterinarians had seen it fly.

Clark said the eagle had probably been hit by a car.

When released, the eagle flew away “confidently”, according to the wildlife center. Credit: City of Chesapeake Government via Storyful

Video transcript

[EAGLE CHIRPS]

ED CLARK: Hang on, baby. Yee haw. [LAUGHS] Never a dull moment.

We're here today to celebrate the culmination of a year's hard work on behalf of the veterinary team at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Releasing a bald eagle, an adult female, that has been in a hospital for the last 12 months. She came in on October 27th of 2022, and she's being released today, almost a year after she was originally admitted.

She came in, she had a litany of injuries. She tried to die on us multiple times. And it really is a testament to the tenacity of our staff, the skill and expertise they bring to bear that this bird is returning to Chesapeake, hopefully to pick up life in the wild where she left off.

OLIVIA SCHIERMEYER: So because this was her wing that was affected, she lost a lot of muscle mass while she was healing from her wound that was on her elbow. So basically, we do what's called passive range of motion therapy. So we push up on the elbow and down on the wrist to fully extend the wing and make sure they're getting full range of motion. Sometimes we'll take measurements of the joints to make sure-- to see where they are in the range of motion. They're usually on pain medications and will receive laser therapy beforehand to reduce the amount of pain associated with it, because it's uncomfortable. But as long as they allow us to perform the physical therapy, we will do it to improve the range of motion.

ED CLARK: You like the eagle?

- Yes.

ED CLARK: Excellent.

- And I've never seen one up close.

ED CLARK: Well, you won't get much closer than this.

We think this bird was probably hit by a car. Maybe because she was scavenging roadkill, which is becoming an increasingly common practice for bald eagles. Wildlife Center has had so far, I think, 56 or 57 bald eagles admitted this year in 2023, and about 70% of those are intoxicated with lead as a result of scavenging animals that have been shot with lead bullets, either from hunting season or people shooting varmints, the groundhog in the garden, things of this nature and leaving it out. And when they consume those fragments of lead bullets, even a piece as small as a grain of rice can actually kill an adult bald eagle. And so part of our message and our mission related to these animals is to communicate and educate hunters to make the switch to let alternatives that are readily available.

One of the reasons that we chose this park is because it's very close to where the bird was originally found. There are Eagles here. There is water here. It's a good habitat so she can get reoriented.

If she had a nest in the area-- she missed the nesting season in 2023, but she's very likely to return to that nesting territory and may or may not reunite with a mate, if she had one. But that's pretty much up to her. She'll at least have the capacity to do so in the habitat with which she's familiar.

This bird weighs about 10 pounds. So she's a big bird. But they can only carry half of their own body weight. So it's not really a threat to anything, certainly not domestic animals.

- 2, 3.

[CROWD CHEERS]

OLIVIA SCHIERMEYER: It was great. After seeing her fly away after almost exactly a year in care, it was-- the first time I saw her fly, I wanted to cry. I just it feels so good to see her fly away.