Crash-landing bald eagle released back into the wild

JACKSON, Wyo. — The 30-year-old bald eagle that made a crash-landing through a window of a Hoback-area residence in late January was successfully released back to the wild on today.

The old-timer eagle, who should have been named “Crash” or something similar, was instead dubbed “BAEA 1.28.20.” He got a new lease on life after mending at the Raptor Center for the past two months.

Hoback resident Reed Moulton initially called the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Teton Raptor Center (TRC) after he found the bird inside his shattered bedroom window on January 28, 2020.

After admitting the eagle, tests revealed he had elevated lead in his system, in addition to the wounds related to the window collision. The eagle was administered two rounds of chelation therapy to help remove the toxic lead, which can lead to issues with balance, walking, and flight. At the time of release, the eagle’s blood lead had returned to low levels and was no longer showing symptoms of lead toxicity.

The eagle also received treatment for wounds and lacerations on its wings, feet, and eye from crashing through the glass.

“Teton Raptor Center is so grateful for the rescuer, volunteers, and team at Jackson Animal Hospital, who were all critical to the eagle’s recovery. This bird has had quite a journey and we’re glad that it will have the opportunity to return to life in the wild,” said Jess Schonegg, TRC’s Interim Rehabilitation Director.

Plans were to have been to release the eagle close to the place where rescuers first encountered it because a nearby bald eagle (likely its mate) was noted making noise and obviously agitated.

According to TRC’s Nick Delmolino, when handlers went to the original place in the Hoback they noticed activity in a nearby nest involving other bald eagles and did not want to re-introduce the elder statesman there for fear of disrupting that relationship.

This unusually old bald eagle was banded as a nestling in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem during the summer of 1989 and it is now among the oldest eagles documented in the wild.

Eagle biologist (and Grand Teton National Park climbing ranger) Dr. George Monopoli and Al Harmata from the University of Montana banded this eagle as part of their efforts to aid in the species’ recovery in the 1980s. Without such efforts three decades ago, the age of this and an additional 34-yr-old eagle that was admitted by the Teton Raptor Center in 2016 would be unknown.

The oldest eagle ever documented in the United States was a bald eagle of at least 38 years that was struck by a vehicle in New York City, NY. The average lifespan for a Bald Eagle is approximately 20 years in the wild.

Teton Raptor Center is currently caring for 14 raptor patients representing 8 raptor species. The 30-year-old bald eagle is one of 17 raptors admitted to TRC’s rehabilitation clinic in 2020. One raptor admitted to TRC in 2020 has also been treated for lead toxicity.

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