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The Bald Eagle - our national symbol - almost became a national disaster! This majestic, most spectacular Bird of Prey has long been on the Endangered Species List - its numbers seriously affected by habitat loss and pesticide poisoning. The decline of the Bald Eagle in this country was a wake-up call and once alerted to the cause, humans have tried to correct the problem and have even passed legislation to protect not only the Eagle, but other national wildlife treasures as well. To me, the Bald Eagle has served his nation well, by setting things in motion - to improve the environment for the sake of wildlife and mankind alike. Bald Eagle numbers have risen since the pesticide DDT, used widely in the 60's and 70's, has been banned. As rains washed the pesticide off the land into rivers, lakes and streams, DDT became concentrated in fish, the Bald Eagle's main diet. This caused the shells of the Eagles' eggs to become too thin, crushing beneath the weight of the incubating parent. Dedicated efforts by the Ohio Division of Wildlife have restored Ohio's Bald Eagle population from just four nesting pair of Eagles in 1979 to 79 nesting pair in 2002, producing a record hatch of 107 Bald Eagle chicks! They are not out of the woods yet; there are still traces of other dangerous chemicals evident in tests run on unhatched eggs and blood samples of living Eagles in the wild. At least, we are doing something, and we have been rewarded with the Eagle's return to our State.
Our two Bald Eagles who reside here at "BACK TO THE WILD" are a wonderful addition to our Educational programming. They will invoke awe in visiting children and adults and inspire them to make a personal commitment to take better care of our natural world! Our first Eagle arrived on January 23, 1998, after a long stay at the Raptor Rehab Center at the University of Minnesota. This unfortunate, beautiful bird was permanently disabled when his nest crashed to the ground after a severe storm, July 3, 1997 in Fremont, Ohio. He was just a 7-week-old chick, not yet fledged. His sibling, a female, survived the crash without injury and was immediately rescued and fostered into an active nest at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor. Thanks to the efforts and quick action of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, she fledged successfully into the wild at 11 weeks old! Sadly, our male has never even known flight. A great portion of his left wing had to be amputated. Even though the storm that took his freedom was an act of nature, the blame still falls on man. There are too few trees left standing that can bear the weight of the massive nest of an Eagle - a nest that can weigh well over 2,000 lbs. - that's 1 ton! Man has harvested and removed our oldest and most important trees. Our second Eagle was found in a field in Oak Harbor, unable to fly, on Labor Day of 2001. X-rays revealed that both shoulders had been broken - probably in a collision with power lines. He, too, will never again, fly free in the wild. We must use this opportunity to benefit other wildlife and work to prevent these human-related injuries from happening to others. At least, these two unfortunate creatures of the wild, will share an enclosure with each other, and at least be able to interact with their own kind. Hopefully, that is of some comfort to a wild animal, who is sadly sentenced to imprisonment.
Bald Eagles appear as large, dark hawks the first few years of their life. Many people do not realize they have seen a Bald Eagle soaring overhead or feeding on the ground, because they do not see the typical white head and tail of the Bald Eagle. These majestic, spectacular Birds of Prey do not attain their full white head and tail until their 5th through 7th year. Juveniles and immatures appear dark brown all over, with much white mottling throughout their feathers. By the 4th year, the head begins to look a dirty-white and the eye color and beak begins to change from brown to yellow.
This Eagle is one of the glove-trained Eagles at the center who will be used in educational programs to benefit other wildlife. Mona Rutger holds both Federal and State permits that allow her to use permanently disabled, non-releasable hawks, owls and eagles, who act as ambassadors for the wild creatures sharing our planet. At the center, they live in spacious, outdoor enclosures with special perches, ramps and other features to enhance their quality of life.
A Bald Eagle which was blinded by West Nile Virus in 2002 in his own enclosure.
An immature eagle.
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BACK TO THE WILD wildlife rehabilitation center in Castalia, Ohio.
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