The Alaska Raptor Center said Tuesday that the bald eagle rescued last month in Juneau by two cyclists and a dog has been released into the wild.
The bird hospital in Sitka, which received the raptor last Wednesday, said the bird returned to full health on Friday and was returned to nature in Sitka the very next day. The original plan was to fly the bird back to Juneau, but flights on Saturday were canceled due to fog.
“We decided to release the bird here because we figure he will find his way back to Juneau probably faster than the fog cleared,” Jennifer Cedarleaf, the center’s avian director, said.
There was a strong likelihood the eagle was caring for young eaglets back home, according to Cedarleaf, which fast-tracked the release. The eagle contained a small area of feather-free skin on its belly known as a brood patch, which is used to keep eggs warm during the incubation period.
“So because it takes both the male and the female to raise the chicks, there was a high likelihood that the chicks weren’t going to survive with only one parent,” Cedarleaf said. “So we wanted to get this bird back out there as fast as we could.”
The raptor rehabilitation received the bird last Wednesday less than 24 hours after its discovery by Ian Martin, Dylan Martin and a Giant Schnauzer named Elliot near Kaxdegoowu Heen Dei (Brotherhood Bridge) Trail.
The Alaska Raptor Center found the bird’s bones were all intact, and after some time in the ICU, they moved the raptor into a small cage. Once given some space, the eagle quickly flew up to a high perch, signaling he was ready for his retreat to Juneau.
Cedarleaf speculated the eagle’s chest bruising could have been from an accidental grounding. Cedarleaf explained some eagles drive out other eagles from their territory by “tumbling” — locking feet with the other bird and taking it for a ride.
“They’ll just twirl around in a circle until one bird lets go and then they fly off,” Cedarleaf said. “Many times, one bird doesn’t let go in time and they’ll hit the ground and this could very much have been just a collision with the ground.”
Ian Martin said the rescue and recovery left him feeling good.
“At the end of the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment that we were able to give this guy a fighting chance, and it appears that he has made the most of it,” Martin told the Empire via email. “If we wouldn’t have found him, he would most certainly not be with us anymore.”
• Contact reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.