TIMPSON, TX (KTRE) - An American bald eagle is back home in East Texas in much better shape than when he left. The 5-7 year old eagle has been in San Antonio recuperating. In September, a Trinity County rancher found the majestic bird grounded by shotgun wounds.
"It's been through several surgeries, taking out bits and pieces of bone and trying to get the bones lined back in its wrist area," explained veterinarian Dr. Melissa Hill. "Once the fractures were healed, then John's staff does the rehabilitation."
Hill is referring to her husband, John Karger, the founder of Last Chance Forever. www.lastchanceforever.org The San Antonio based conservancy is where the falconer helps hurt birds of prey get well. This eagle is the latest to pass the required tests to regain freedom.
"He has to capture live prey, three different species," Karger shared. "It also has to fly well in different conditions, so we've flown this bird on days it's really humid, days it's really dry, very windy."
Kind of like it was the day of the release. Invited guests included local Boy Scouts. They have an appreciation for our country's symbol of freedom, but learned about those who don't.
"Most of the eagles we get in now are from the northeast Texas area and most of them are shot," Hill said.
"I don't know why this eagle was shot. It may have been accident, or on purpose. We are investigating that now," Jim Stinebaugh, special investigator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife said.
Shooting a bald eagle is a federal crime, punishable by a fine and prison term. All tips should be reported a game warden or sheriff's department. Investigators want a tip to lead to an arrest. A $2500 reward is an incentive, but today a reward of a different kind came.
"We'll do this on the count of three. One, two, three," instructed Karger. Hill then lifted the bird into the air in one full swoop. The eagle easily took off on his own. His flapping wings were audible over the spectators awing. The eagle did exactly as Karger anticipated. It flew to a nearby deadened tree, landed, rested and then took off again.
"Fly baby fly. That's what I thought. I thought he was looking really good. He flew strong. I was happy with him. You never know when you turn them loose," Karger reacted.
The eagle is home among lakes and trees. The kind of freedom our national symbol deserves.