After spending four weeks at the Good Zoo for rehabilitation, a wild bald eagle was released by the zoo staff on August 14.
“When the juvenile eagle was brought to the zoo in July by our local conservation officer, the bird was severely emaciated, only weighing 5.6lbs, and was very dehydrated,” said zoo animal curator Mindi White. “The eagle was barely standing and could not keep its head up, and the staff at the zoo immediately started fluid therapy.”
Zoo veterinarians completed a thorough examination and the tests revealed no broken bones or gunshot. The West Niles and Avian Influenza tests were also negative.
“Luckily the eagle was strong enough, after a couple rounds of fluid therapy, to eat on its own,” said White. “We needed to be careful to not over feed at the beginning since the eagle was so skinny and its stomach was small. We cut the food into pieces because the eagle, even though strong enough to eat, could not tear the food or swallow it whole. The eagle continued to eat well and the staff was happy to see the bird getting stronger and stronger each day.”
Once to an ideal weight the eagle was given live fish, proving it could hunt, and the eagle was taken to the zoo’s outdoor flight cage.
Rehabilitating a raptor takes time and lots of effort. White estimates that more than 60 hours was spent with the bald eagle in the month that it was at the zoo. “Two veterinarians, two animal care managers and two animal care keepers worked with the eagle,” said White. “The eagle gained nearly four pounds while in our care and we had to be sure that it was hunting and flying like it should before it could be released.”
The Good Zoo is licensed for raptor rehabilitation and has seen many hawks, owls, and a handful of bald eagles. “Since bald eagles are protected, when an eagle comes into the rehab program special permission has to be granted to rehabilitate that specific bird,” explained White. “In a year, we have close to 300 individual raptors come through our program. The goal is always to release the birds, but injuries sometimes are so severe that the raptors need to be placed in an accredited institution.”
The Good Zoo’s collection currently includes a red-tailed hawk and barred owl that could not be released. The zoo also has a bald eagle at the wetlands exhibit that was rehabbed in Washington State. “The eagle’s wing was broken and she could not be released,” said White. “She is a juvenile so our visitors will have the amazing opportunity to watch her mature and change into her iconic white head.
Good Zoo memberships and monetary donations help cover the cost of rehabilitating local raptors and fund other conservation programs. The zoo opens daily at 10:00 a.m. and admission to the zoo is $8.95 for non-member adults and $5.75 for ages 3-12. Zoo members and ages 2 and under are free.