2011 Year in Review: Randy Huwa

Randy Huwa, Executive Vice President: Many people will remember 2011 at the Wildlife Center of Virginia as the year of the “Rock Stars” – the three young Bald Eagles taken from their nest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden after their mother was struck and killed by a plane at the Norfolk airport.

The whole Norfolk Three experience is really memorable, but I confess that my “favorite” eagle for 2011 is another bird – KS.

KS came to the Center in early June from Virginia Beach. She had been spotted on the ground and picked up by an area wildlife rehabilitator. She was banded by the Center for Conservation Biology – her band letters were KS. Several attempts were made to release KS, but after several unsuccessful launches, KS came to the Wildlife Center at the direction of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. KS came in with a series of missing tail feathers and what may have been a bruise on her right wing.   Within a week, KS was in one of the Center’s flight pen … where she joined the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglets.

Now, some Critter Cam watchers decided that KS was a bully. I never really saw anything more than her defending her “space” and food … and who can blame her for that? KS spent the rest of the summer in one or the other of the Center’s two flight pens. By the end of August, she “passed” her medical exam – no issues with her right wing, blood count, eye examination, weight all fine … and her feathers were growing back in.

On August 30, KS was taken to Berkeley Plantation for release – along with the “encore” release by NX. It was KS’s release that I will always remember. I’ve been to a good number of Bald Eagle releases during my five years at the Center. Usually, the eagle – whether a juvenile or adult – takes off, finds a nice perch, lands, and sits for a bit … to collect itself, to shake off the “kinks” from confinement in a traveling case, to get oriented. But not KS.

When Ed released her, she flew out relatively low and straight. When she got to the James River, she banked left … and then started to circle ... and soar … and soar … and soar … and soar. Gaining altitude with each slow turn … she was soon gone – out of sight.

KS Postscript. The KS release came on August 30, just a few days after Hurricane Irene hit Virginia. Dozens of young squirrels – orphaned or displaced by high winds -- were brought up to Berkeley Plantation by permitted rehabilitators. Drs. Dave and Adam did a quick triage in the back of one of the Center’s Subarus and divided the young squirrels into three groups. One group went to a rehabilitator in Middlesex County; I drove a second batch to a rehabilitator in Sperryville; and the third group was taken up to the Wildlife Center for care. 

Read about more “memorable moments” from our staff, volunteers, and students — 2011 Year in Review.