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Mizzou Wire

Taking flight

Bald eagle rehabilitated and returned to the wild

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  • Story by Lisa Bruce
  • Photo by Shane Epping
  • Published: June 21, 2007
Bald eagle being released

L'aiglon (French for eaglet), a 4-year-old bald eagle, soars off a bluff of the Missouri River. The Raptor Rehabilitation Project cared for the injured bird and released him back into the wild after 7 months.

On June 17, a bald eagle soared off the bluffs of the Missouri River near Easley. Seven months earlier, L’aiglon (French for eaglet) couldn’t fly. The 4-year-old bald eagle was found in a Callaway County pasture. How he was injured is a mystery.

The Raptor Rehabilitation Project, a student organization in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, took the bird’s case.

“Injuries commonly seen in our patients include being struck by cars, becoming entangled in barbed wire fence, or falling victim to gunshot wounds,” says Erin West, president of the Raptor Rehabilitation Project.

After surgery to repair a fracture in his left wing, L’aiglon spent about four months building up his flight muscles in a large cage.

"His biggest challenge will be to find an appropriate habitat for himself," West says."Nesting eagles can be very territorial and may chase him away from land surrounding existing nest sites. We released him approximately three miles from the closest known nesting site in order to minimize that problem."

The raptor rehab group has seen a dramatic increase in their caseload — from an average of 50-60 raptors per year to more than 110 per year in the past two years. The group annually releases between 30 and 33 percent of its charges. The national average release rate is 28 percent. 

In addition to rehabilitating injured birds of prey, the Raptor Rehabilitation Project has programs to educate the public about raptors. The organization has nine permanent residents whose injuries prevent them from returning to the wild. These birds act as ambassadors to the public.

“The Raptor Rehabilitation Project offers the only opportunity for students to get hands-on experience dealing with wildlife or avian medicine and care,” West says. “It is an extraordinary experience for all those involved.”

Read more in:  Beyond CampusAgriculture & the Environment

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012