Wildlife Center Releases Bald Eagle on April 13 at Westover Plantation

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation’s leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, released a Bald Eagle on Monday, April 13 at Westover Plantation, on the James River in Charles City County.  Participating in the release was Ed Clark, President and Co-Founder of the Wildlife Center.  Also participating was Georgia Wells – a local resident who found the eagle on her property – and  Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police Officer Mitch Booden, who initially rescued the eagle.  This adult Bald Eagle was first spotted by Wells – on the ground in a backyard on Tavern Road in Prince George County, near Petersburg – on about March 23.  After a few days, she contacted VDGIF; Officer Booden responded and found that the bird was only able to fly about 10 feet and did not seem to be able to get any “lift” in flight.  On March 26 Booden captured the eagle and took it to Crater Road Veterinary Hospital in Petersburg, where the bird was stabilized.   On March 27, the Bald Eagle was transported to the Wildlife Center by Richard Huntington.   Upon admission, the eagle was energetic, active, and in good body condition, with some scabs on its feet [likely from extended time on the ground].  The eagle was given a complete diagnostic examination.  Results from a blood test, and a test for lead exposure, were all within normal ranges; radiographs disclosed no broken bones or other issues.  The bird was treated with fluids, anti-inflammatories, and an anti-fungal medication. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"134","attributes":[{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"250","height":"188"}]}]]On March 30, with continued improvement, the eagle was moved to one of the Center’s large flight pens.  The Center’s rehabilitation staff exercised the bird to build up its stamina, and the eagle demonstrated that it is ready for return to the wild.   The eagle was released at Westover Plantation [c. 1730] on the north shore of the James River, across from a National Wildlife Refuge.  The 4,200-acre refuge was created in 1991 and hosts one of the largest eagle roosts on the East Coast.    The eagle released on Monday is one of 14 Bald Eagles admitted to the Wildlife Center thus far in 2009.   It is estimated that the Bald Eagle population of North America numbered about half a million before European settlement.  With the loss of habitat, shooting, and the effects of DDT and other pesticides, the U.S. eagle population plummeted.  In 1977, there were fewer than 50 Bald Eagle nests in Virginia.  Today, the Bald Eagle population in Virginia is on the rebound.  There are now more than 500 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth.  Every year, about 2,500 animals – ranging from Bald Eagles to opossums to chipmunks – are brought to the Wildlife Center for care.  “The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild,” Clark said.  “At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release.”   

 Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 50,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  The Center’s public education programs share insights gained through the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, in hopes of reducing human damage to wildlife.  The Center trains veterinary and conservation professionals from all over the world and is actively involved in comprehensive wildlife health studies and the surveillance of emerging diseases.     

Additional photos and a video of the release are available through the Norfolk Eagles Support Team International's forum.

[Release photos courtesy of Holly Smith]