Severe Weather Damages Wildlife Enclosure

A flurry of severe thunderstorms in the Shenandoah Valley, many accompanied with wind gusts reportedly approaching 70 mph, caused damage to a newly renovated flight cage in early May.  The limb of a tree outside the enclosure apparently damaged the specialized fabric used for the walls of the 85-foot-long enclosure, which was specifically designed as an exercise space for large raptors, such as eagles and hawks.   There was only one bird in the cage at the time, an adult Bald Eagle, #11-0207, that was admitted to the Center in late March with puncture wounds.  Taking advantage of the tear in the side wall, the eagle squeezed through the hole in the fabric and performed what the Center calls a “self-release”.

According to Wildlife Center President Ed Clark, the incident is more frustrating than anything else.  “With more than 50 outdoor enclosures, it just figures that the one damaged was the one holding a Bald Eagle.  The bird was recovering from her wounds and was flying extremely well — too well, apparently.  I guess she just had things to do.”  WCV staff think that the bird may well return to her home territory in Gloucester. The damaged cage is adjacent to the enclosure in which three young eaglets hatched at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens are being held.   The adult eagle that escaped was being housed next to the eaglets, primarily to serve as a role model for them.   Clark said he wants to assure everyone that the enclosure in which the young birds are being housed is more than secure since the fabric walls of that space have been reinforced with welded wire fencing. “At no time were the eaglets in any danger, nor were they especially bothered by the storm,” Clark said.  “We’re just going to have to find them a new friend”. 

The Center says repairs to the large enclosure are underway.  In addition to replacing the torn wall panel, all branches and saplings within five feet of the outside of the cage will be cut back.  While this was done at the time the cage was constructed, the 15-foot-tall maple tree that caused the damage has grown up since the cage was built. Said Clark, “It just never occurred to us that this three-inch diameter tree could damage the side of the cage, but then it is hard to anticipate weather events like we have recently experienced.”