Specialists from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeast Raptor Center and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources were on hand Friday at Pyne Road Park on West Point Lake near LaGrange, Ga., to release a rehabilitated young bald eagle at the center.
The eagle, which hatched in early spring, was transferred to the Raptor Center in April after it was found on the ground near Keysville, Georgia. For unknown reasons, he did not do well once he left the nest. Slightly underweight upon arriving in Auburn, the eagle was also diagnosed with internal parasites.
In the center, the young raptor was housed with an adult bald eagle to help it learn natural behaviors. During his rehabilitation, he was treated for parasites, passed all of his flight tests and was medically cleared by clinical veterinarian Dr Seth Oster as ready to return to the wild.
The Southeastern Raptor Center is seeing a larger influx of rescued young birds in the spring, especially chicks or chicks, according to Stephanie Kadletz, raptor rehabilitation specialist at the center. On average, she said, the center admits about 50 orphaned or injured raptors to nest or fledging each year and more than 350 total raptors each year from Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama.
The centre’s mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors when possible, educate the public about these magnificent birds of prey, and research raptor issues. About 35% of the birds of prey brought to the center each year are rehabilitated and released into their natural habitat.
According to Dr. Bob Sargent, program manager in the Georgia MNR Wildlife Division, this release of eagles is another important step in the gradual recovery of the bald eagle population in Georgia.
“In 2015, surveys recorded more than 200 active bald eagle nest territories in the state, a remarkable improvement from the 1970s when no successful nests were recorded, and testimony from the importance of banning the use of DDT pesticides in the United States and protecting the species under the Endangered Species Act, ”said Sargent. “However, the bald eagle is still listed as Endangered by the State of Georgia due to its rarity and other factors, so there is still work to be done.
“In addition to habitat improvements, nest monitoring and legal protections, the availability of veterinary and rehabilitation services for injured eagles is a critical part of eagle conservation efforts. The Auburn Raptor Center plays a key role in this and is therefore a particularly valuable partner with the DNR.
The juvenile eagle was released to West Point Lake because the lake is home to a population of eagles throughout the year, especially during the hot summer months.
“He will be able to hone his hunting skills by observing other eagles,” Sargent said. “In addition, West Point Lake is relatively close to Auburn, which has minimized the potential stress associated with the trip.”
Kadletz said the Southeastern Raptor Center team is honored to have this opportunity to work with Georgia DNR to give injured, sick and orphaned raptors a second chance to live full lives in the wild.
“It is a privilege to continue to contribute to the wild raptor populations in Georgia and the southeast,” said Kadletz, a member of the team that helped prepare the bald eagle for release. “This is especially important with species such as the majestic bald eagle that was once endangered in the United States.”
(Written by Mike Jernigan)