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Bald Eagle Release

Fish and squirrels beware...The Carolina Raptor Center has released a rehabilitated bald eagle into the Cowen's Ford Wildlife Refuge.

April 19, 2007
In celebration of Earth Day, Carolina Raptor Center released an eagle at Mecklenburg County's Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, April 21. Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge is located at 2329 Neck Road, Huntersville.

The eagle was found August 22, 2004 in Valdez, Alaska with damage to one toe on each foot. Anticipating limited use of its feet – the primary method of catching its food - the recovery team in Alaska determined that the eagle would not be able to survive if released. Carolina Raptor Center was seeking a non-releasable eagle that was still capable of flight for use as an education bird and the eagle was shipped to NC. After several months at Carolina Raptor Center, it was obvious that this bird had a lot of spirit, was not comfortable around people and would not be suitable as an education bird. These characteristics are not always evident during the rehabilitation process.

Carolina Raptor Center's rehabilitation staff noticed that the eagle still had incredible strength in its feet. The eagle was placed in a 100 foot long flight cage. Mathias Engelmann, Director of Rehabilitation noted, "This eagle demonstrated excellent agility and foot strength as it successfully caught rabbits and ducks." This was valuable information as both are natural food sources. The eagle was placed on a regiment designed to strengthen is flight muscles and other skills. Our final concerns involved the ability of an Alaskan eagle to resist parasites and diseases in the eastern part of the U.S.

To improve the odds for this eagle, Carolina Raptor Center engaged this eagle in flight training and prey capture for the last two years. The eagle has remained healthy and is considered to be properly acclimated. Mathias Engelmann stated, "Based on the tracking of the 2006 eaglets ( ) we feel confident that this eagle will do fine." President/CEO Alan Barnhardt noted, "We would like to place a transmitter on this eagle like we did for the eaglets born at our site in 2006. This would provide a way for the public to track its progress and enjoy its future journeys. Unfortunately, we have not been successful in identifying a sponsor to underwrite the cost of a transmitter and tracking during the coming years."

In collaboration with Mecklenburg County's Park and Recreation department, Cowan's Ford Wildlife Refuge has been identified as a perfect site for the release. Michael Kirschman, Division Director of Stewardship Services for Mecklenburg County said, "We are excited to continue our relationship with Carolina Raptor Center in educating the public about the importance of the conservation of wildlife and our natural resources."

Representative Martha Alexander, a member of the NC General Assembly and long-time friend of Carolina Raptor Center, will release the eagle. While hundreds of raptors are rehabilitated and released by CRC each year, only thirty-two eagles have been released since 1979. Representative Alexander said, "This will be a unique experience and I'm honored to be a part of the return of this magnificent creature to the wild."

Bald eagles are still recovering from their status as an endangered species. While some areas of the country have fully recovered, North Carolina is home to only about 50 nesting pairs. Carolina Raptor Center has received over 63 bald eagles since 1987, releasing 32 back to the wild. Over 350 hawks, owls, vultures, falcons and eagles were released by CRC last year.

Founded in 1979, Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) is dedicated to environmental education and conservation of birds of prey through public education, rehabilitation of injured and orphaned raptors, and research. More than 12,000 injured and orphaned raptors have come to CRC since its inception and last year more than 63 percent of birds that survived the first 24 hours were released back into the wild. More than 100 non-releasable raptors, whose injuries make it impossible to survive in the wild, are permanent residents of CRC and educate the public as ambassadors for their species. Last year outreach exhibitions taught more than 100,000 people about raptors and their importance to the environment, "Wild Wings" educated more than 36,000 children in North and South Carolina communities and more than 32,000 people visited CRC.

Carolina Raptor Center, located in Latta Plantation Nature Preserve in Huntersville, is dedicated to environmental education and the conservation of birds of prey through public education, the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned raptors and research.

For more information, visit or call Alan Barnhardt at 704-875-6521 (ext. 103) or 704-575-6703 (cell).

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