Phoenix AZ (August 7, 2019) – After taking a graceful, half-mile flight across Horseshoe Lake, a 3-year-old bald eagle released back into the wild by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Liberty Wildlife was truly free once again.
It was a fitting conclusion for the bird, which was found in February at a dairy in Queen Creek. Left untreated with a shattered femur, it certainly would have died. Four months later, a small group of onlookers watched with excitement as this national symbol glided across the water’s surface, declaring its independence just days ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
“As an agency, we strive to conserve and protect all of the state’s wildlife, but participating in something like this ahead of the Fourth of July is something special,” said Kyle McCarty, the department’s raptor biologist. “This eagle now has another shot at survival, and in a couple of years, when it becomes of breeding age, it may go on to bolster Arizona’s growing bald eagle population. For us, every eagle counts.”
In 2016, a few miles downstream along the Verde River, McCarty placed numbered metal bands around the bird’s legs while it was a nestling. This past winter, the bird was presumingly healthy and flourishing — until it somehow shattered its left leg and later was discovered on the ground.
X-rays were taken at Liberty Wildlife, revealing extensive damage that required a 45-minute surgical procedure to insert a metal rod and screws.
“It was a pretty severe break and took longer to heal than we had expected, but with time and great care from our medical team, including volunteer veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Lamb, the leg was repaired and he’s able to grasp well with it,” said Laura Hackett, Liberty Wildlife biologist. “He is the 105th bald eagle that Liberty Wildlife has been able to help return back into the wild in its 38-year history.”
For more information about what AZGFD does to manage the state’s 800-plus native species, including bald eagles, visit www.azgfd.gov. To learn more about what Liberty Wildlife does to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, visit www.libertywildlife.org.
Those wanting to support AZGFD’s mission to conserve and protect Arizona’s wildlife can sign up for a Conservation Membership package by visiting www.azwildlifehero.com.