Bald eagle released at Pioneer Trails after recovering from lead poisoning

AURORA, Neb. (KMTV) -

This year’s first rehabilitated eagle is released back into the wild Monday, at Pioneer Trails Recreation Area, just north of Aurora.

She was originally found near this park March 2, with no apparent injury, but she wasn't flying.

“We tested her and she had a lead level of 18.3,” said Betsy Finch, manager of Raptor Rehabilitation. “And that is micrograms per deciliter. Anything above 10 toxic.”

Bald eagles are getting sick and dying from lead poisoning after eating the carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets. The Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery Center typically sees 20 eagles a year, it’s already hit that number this year; only two have survived.

For the past seven weeks, Finch, has nursed the eagle released Monday back to health, treating her for lead poisoning, as she has done with many other eagles.

“This is a real eagle celebration today,” Denise Lewis, Director of Raptor Recovery said. “This is what it’s all about.”

Before her big moment, she is banded and photographed.

It's bittersweet. Finch invests a lot of time nursing these birds back to health. But she insists, she isn't sad to see her go.

“Not really,” Finch said. “They don't belong with us.”

Out in the wild, she'll go right back to hunting, and soaring free.

“If she has a mate out there she will find that mate,” Finch said.

And she said it's not too late for her to breed yet this season.

If you find an injured raptor, such as an eagle or an owl, call the Raptor Recovery Rescue Hotline at 1866-888-7261.

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