After receiving a lot of help from the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, an injured Golden Eagle was able to fly free again.
The bird had to undergo more than a year of rehabilitation at the preserve in order to help it heal from a broken scapula and persistent injuries to its feet caused by porcupine quills.
The chance to watch the eagle’s first flight drew quite a crowd, with about 100 people gathered around the McIntyre Marsh parking lot for the release on Oct. 24.
The wildlife preserve’s executive director, Jake Paleczny, told the crowd about the long road to recovery for the eagle, still in its closed crate.
He said that along with helping the slow process of mending the eagle’s shoulder bone, critical to flying, workers at the preserve noticed severe swelling of the bird’s feet. Paleczny said after inspecting the bird’s feet they began to remove fragments of porcupine quill. He said they probably became lodged there when the eagle tried to hunt or scavenge one of the spiny rodents.
As a result of the injury, the eagle’s feet had to be bandaged up until an hour before the release. Paleczny said it will still be good for the eagle to spend as much time as possible off its feet.
“We’ve seen him flying really well in the flight pen. But it’s just not enough. He’s not spending enough time in the air,” Paleczny said.
That confined flying time was about to change as they prepared to release the eagle. As a way of raising funds for the wildlife preserve, the chance to open the eagle’s cage for it’s first free flight was sold off by live auction to the assembled crowd. The wildlife preserve’s visitor services manager Lindsay Caskenette served as the auctioneer.
“It’s been such a long road to recovery. It’s been so much time, energy and money that has been put into this bird. And so the donation or the bid that the lucky person does today will go directly back into helping us ensure we can do this going forward, helping to ensure we can provide 24/7 care to animals,” Caskenette said.
“He ate a lot of quail. Like, so much quail,” she added about the eagle.
The bids rose quickly from a $50 starting point. Before long Lauren Muir, standing alongside Jeff Cressman who had also bid, was the last to raise her hand. Although she pledged a $550 donation, Muir decided not to open the cage herself but instead allowed young Xavier Cook to do the honours.
After the door was opened, the eagle took a nudge at the back of the crate before it burst out and flew away.
Although he and his family do a fair bit of bird watching, Cook said this was definitely the closest he had been to an eagle.
The eagle didn’t go far right away, pausing at the top of a tree just a few yards from the crowd before soaring off across the marsh after a flock of ducks.
Between the donation from Muir and cash passed off by others, the eagle release event raised a total of $920 for the Wildlife Preserve.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com