Cleared for Take-Off

Last summer, a Renton man by the name of Chris was walking his dog alongside a nearby lake. When his dog froze and pointed at something in the grass underneath a tree, Chris found himself face to face with a juvenile Bald Eagle who had fallen from her nest.

The young bird appeared to be having diff culty standing, and Chris feared she was injured. While she was still quite intimidating with her formidable
beak and long, sharp talons, Chris was determined to save the bird. He managed to contain the eagle in a large cardboard box and deliver her safely to the PAWS Wildlife Center.

The bird had suffered a serious fracture in one of the bones of her right leg during her fall from the nest. The break looked quite dramatic in radiographic
images, but the wildlife veterinary staff had confidence that they could return the eagle to good health.

Two days later, she underwent surgery. The veterinary staff used bone pins and an external fixation device to stabilize the leg bone as it healed. After nearly four weeks, the bone was stable enough for the pins to be removed, and the eagle was once again standing solidly on two legs.

With her landing gear repaired, the eagle spent her days in a large flight pen, strengthening her muscles and honing her skills. That’s when staff discovered yet another problem. Some of the eagle’s tail and flight feathers were growing improperly. They had a stunted, pinched appearance, and were easily broken.

After a little diagnostic work, it was determined that ringworm was the cause of the eagle’s feather deformity. She was successfully treated for the fungal infection and continued to spend the remainder of her time at PAWS strengthening her flight muscles, growing in new feathers, and preparing for release.

Chris had helped the eagle during her time of greatest need, so it seemed fitting that he be the one to restore her freedom when release day arrived on January 26. We chose to release the bird on a sandbar extending out into the Sauk River. Spawned out salmon would provide her with easy meals for a few weeks, and she would have plenty of company as others of her kind had converged on the river to partake in the free feast.

As Chris opened the carrier door, the eagle did not hesitate. She hopped out onto the sand, spread her wings, and flew confidently out over the water, landing high in an alder on the opposite bank. She then sat proudly in the tree on two strong legs, poised and free.

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