- Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 11:57
- Published on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 11:02
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Bald Eagle #12-2554 is actually a pretty lucky fellow. When he came crashing down into the yard of a King George home along U.S. 301 on Nov. 11, it could have been a life ending experience. Almost half of the bald eagles who are injured in this manner do not survive.
But Mr.12-2554 was very fortunate. After free-falling from the sky, while mating or fighting with a larger female bald eagle, both birds landed in the yard of a home. The female eagle flew away, but Mr. 12-2554 was wounded and remained on the ground. His very loud screeches attracted the attention of residents who called King George Animal Control.
The responding officer was Wayne Minor, one of a trio of area residents who are committed to rescuing wild animals. Minor, armed with long sleeved gloves and a net, recovered the very unhappy injured eagle, and called Michael “Linnie” Coppage of Dalghren, a retired Navy veteran who travels up to 5,000 miles a year at his own expense voluntarily transporting injured wild animals to various rehabilitation locations.
“When I get the call, I transport the injured animals to Diana O’Conner, who runs Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation Refuge in Richmond County. She evaluates them and then decides whether they need to be transported some place else,” Coppage said.
O’Conner is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has been caring for injured or abandoned animals for more than 20 years. She aided more than 900 animals last year, including Mr. 12-2554 and 26 other bald eagles. “We get them when they are injured from fighting or falling, or when they have lead poisoning or get hit by a car,” O’Conner said.
In the case of Mr. 12-2554, O’Conner tested him in the refuge’s new large flight pen and found that while he was able to fly, he could not get any lift. Coppage then placed the injured eagle in a large box and transported it to the Virginia Wildlife Center near Waynesboro. “You put them in the box, it’s dark and they calm right down,” said Coppage.
Mr. 12-2554 was nursed back to full health at the Virginia Wildlife Center, where all Virginia bald eagles are eventually sent for rehabilitation because, even though the graceful bird is no longer endangered, it is protected. And, then on Dec. 13, the injured eagle was returned to King George where it was released by Wildlife Center President Ed Clark at the Land’s End Wildlife Management Center.
A small group of people cheered as Mr. 12-2554 flew about 100 yards and landed in a tree. He had survived a free-fall to fly again as a result of the efforts of a committed trio of area animal rescuers. Three other mature eagles were spotted flying in the area, so Minor, Coppage and O’Conner are confident Mr. 12-2554 is back among friends thanks to their efforts. All in all, a job well done.