This story has been updated to correct a location in the headline and add additional information and photos.
ELKINS, W.Va. (WBOY) — On June 14, 2022, at the Elks Golf Course in Elkins, a bald eagle was spotted that appeared to be unable to fly. On July 28, that bald eagle was released back into the wild after weeks of rehabilitation.
The eagle was a young bird that hatched this spring. Malnourished and unable to fly when captured, with the help of many volunteers, the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia (ACCA), and the Cheat Lake Animal Hospital, the young eagle was able to be released after five weeks of rehabilitation.
“Well of course you are always hoping for the best. You’re hoping that you’re going to see it take off and not land, so seeing its flight, it kept going up, it kind of swirled around a little bit, that’s what we want to see. We want to see it go upward. So it’s breathtaking, it’s what you want to see, it’s what you’ve worked for,” ACCA Volunteer Beth Goodwin said.
Jo Santiago’s story of the events:
“Jeff Tenny spotted a bald eagle on the Elks Golf Course that couldn’t fly and knew it was in trouble. He contacted Doug White, the course grounds manager, and Randolph County 911. Randolph County 911 called Jo Santiago. Because of their strength and power, eagle rescues are not a one-person job, so I immediately contacted Dylan Lewis, who has assisted me with numerous raptor rescues. Sonny Lewis, Dylan’s dad, also volunteered to help rescue the eagle.
It was dark by the time the rescuer team arrived at the course. They were met by Coty Daniels, who drove them by golf cart to where the eagle was last seen near the old railroad tracks. They met up with Doug White at the tracks, and all proceeded by flashlight in search of the eagle. About 10 minutes into the search the eagle was spotted, and the group of searchers were able to corral the eagle while I threw a towel over the bird and secured his legs and taloned feet while Dylan secured the eagle’s massive wings. The eagle was placed in a large box and transported by golf cart to the course parking area. I took the bird home and contacted Dr. Jesse Fallon of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, a raptor specialist. Early the next morning, Dylan Lewis transported the eagle to the ACCA and Dr. Fallon’s expert care.
Dr. Fallon did a complete physical work-up of the eagle, a young bird just hatched out this spring. Fortunately, no physical injuries were found and blood tests for other possible health issues came back negative. Dr. Fallon found the eagle to be weak and severely malnourished, but there were no other health issues. Sometimes young birds fail to find enough food to sustain themselves at a healthy level. The eagle has been recuperating at the ACCA for the past 5 weeks, during which time he has been well fed and exercised to get him ready for release back into the wild.”
Anyone who sees an injured bird should call the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, so it can be captured, rehabilitated and hopefully released back into the wild, much like the young bald eagle. Donations to the non-profit ACCA can be made on its website.
“Every time I do this, it’s different every time, and I mentioned to you once before, it’s like when they take off, I take off with them. It is an experience that I encourage everyone to have, there’s nothing like it,” Raptor Specialist & Rescue Volunteer Jo Santiago said.
Santiago said that while it is illegal to do, people shoot bald eagles for sport and set out traps, but these raptor birds are also injured from feasting on animal remains that contain lead bullets left behind by hunters. She also said that this is only the second bald eagle that she has been able to release back out into the wild because those that they capture are already poisoned with lead, she suggested that hunters use an alternative to lead bullets and fish lures.
To see the video of the bald eagle’s release, make sure to watch the video at the top of this story!