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PHOENIX – Arizona Game and Fish Department and Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center, released a 3-year-old bald eagle back into the wild just before Independence Day. The bird was found in February at a Queen Creek Dairy suffering from a shattered femur. If left untreated, the bird could have died.
“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,” Kyle McCarty, AZGFD raptor biologist said. “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, McCarty placed numbered metal bands around the bird’s legs when it was nestling. In the winter, the bird was healthy until it shattered its left leg and was found on the ground.
X-rays were taken at Liberty Wildlife that showed the lower part of the birds leg was shattered and required a 45-minute surgery to place a metal rod and screw to repair the damage.
Laura Hackett, Liberty Wildlife biologist said it was a severe break that took longer to heal than expected.
The bird spent the next four months recovering at Liberty Wildlife. Biologists strapped a GPD transmitter to its back to help track its movements.
“The use of a GPS transmitter presents a special opportunity because many younger birds do not survive past their first year,” McCarty said. “A 3-year-old-bird will potentially be able to tell us a lot about which areas are important for pre-breeding eagles. We’ll also be afforded the chance to learn about their breeding habitat should the bird and transmitter survive another year or two.”
Last week the transmitter tracked the young eagle 22 miles north of Horsehoe Lake and by June 30 it flew south along the Verde River, returning to Bartlett Lake area where it hatched and took its first flight.
Arizona’s bald eagle population has flourished since 1978, when only 11 pairs were counted within the state and the species was listed as endangered. Today there are an estimated 75 adult breeding pairs.
Information provided by Arizona Game and Fish Department