The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, will release a Bald Eagle on Thursday, August 4 at the Visitors Center at Mason Neck State Park in southern Fairfax County, Virginia.  The release is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.        

The release is free and open to the public.  Individuals who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to the Center at president@wildlifecenter.org       

The eagle will be released by Ed Clark, President and Co-Founder of the Wildlife Center.           

The young Bald Eagle to be released on Thursday was found on the ground near its nest in Fort Washington, Maryland on May 20 and taken to a local wildlife rehabilitator.  At the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the eagle was ultimately brought to the Wildlife Center – in part because the Center was already treating several eagles of about the same age.          

The eagle was admitted to the Center on June 5 and assigned Patient #11-1170 [the 1170th patient admitted during 2011].  The eagle had a painfully swollen tail and was missing a few feathers.  Center veterinarians started treating the bird with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication.  The bird showed steady improvement, and by June 21 the eagle was ready to join two other young Bald Eagle patients in one leg of the Center’s largest outdoor flight pen.       

Center vets and rehabilitator staff have continued to monitor the bird’s progress and have determined that #11-1170 is ready to go back into the wild.       

Mason Neck is on a peninsula in the Potomac River and provides prime habitat for Bald Eagles close to #11-1170’s original nest site.  The park connects with the 2,200-acre Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge – created in 1969 as the first refuge specifically established to protect essential nesting, feeding, and roosting habitat for Bald Eagles.  The refuge has been listed as one of the top 10 sites in the country for viewing Bald Eagles.           The Wildlife Center has used Mason Neck as a release site for eagles before; in addition to providing prime eagle habitat, park and refuge officials are able to keep an eye on newly released birds to be sure that their readjustment to the wild goes smoothly.          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 just 33 Bald Eagle nests in Virginia.         

Today, the Bald Eagle population in Virginia is on the rebound.  There are now more than 600 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth.         

Since its founding in 1982, the Wildlife Center has treated scores of individual Bald Eagles, has done extensive studies of environmental factors that affect eagles and other wildlife, and worked to reform laws and regulations to strengthen the protection afforded to Bald Eagles.  The Center recently launched a live webcam, enabling the public to watch eagle patients.        

Every year, more than 2,000 animals – ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks – are brought to the Wildlife Center for care.  “The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and to return as many as possible to the wild,” Clark said.  “At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release.”          

The Wildlife Center of Virginia is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine.  Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 55,000 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.           

Mason Neck is part of the Virginia State Park system managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.