Taking Flight... Conservancy releases bald eagle



An awed murmur spread across a small crowd of bystanders as a man and woman remove the last protective wrappings from a young, female bald eagle. The woman opens her hands, and in a few quick flaps, the eagle takes flight, cruising over the surface of the Colorado River and landing among the trees on its bank.

The crowd bursts with cheers and applause.

While some of the patrons of the Vanishing Texas River Cruise on Wednesday morning, April 13 had no idea the were going to see an eagle released back into the wild that day, others on the boat have been preparing for this moment for some time.

John Karger, Executive Director of the Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy, and Conservancy Facilities and Educational Director Kelly Rayner are two of a team that dedicated time and effort to returning the raptor to the wild.

Karger said the two things the organization uses to rehabilitate the birds is veterinary medicine and falconry. The second is a vital aspect of maintaing the birds' instinctual behavior.

“It gives us the ability to handle the bird and keep it as wild as possible,” Karger said.

Karger explained that the juvenile female released on Wednesday was found in a nest that had fallen from it's nest tree.

“Two people from the fish and wildlife agency found the bird,” he said, adding that since the state doesn't have funding for conservancy programs, outside organizations like Last Chance forever are “relied upon by the state of Texas to care for injured birds.”

Karger said initially, this female bald eagle wasn't able to fly very well.

“We've put around 1,000 hours in this bird,” he said.

Texas has a subspecies of bald eagle, Karger said, adding that for the first time in 20 years, the birds of prey have been spotted in the Hill Country, including around Lake Buchanan, which is where Karger and Rayner released the female on Wednesday.

“The pair on TX 29 were the first west of I-35 in 20 years,” he said. “This is the 22nd bald eagle we've released on this lake.”

Karger said conservancy workers and falconers raised the year-old female in San Antonio.

“We had to do what the parents would do. We had to show her how to fly and how to hunt,” he said. “It's quite difficult because they've only ever had food given to them in pieces.”

Karger said the team graduated the bird from parts of dead fish to whole fish, to live fish, and then introduced the birds to fish swimming in pools of water.

“At each stage they were scared,” Karger said. 


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