Nearly 200 visitors gathered Sunday at the Bob Starr Overlook at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge awaiting the exciting reveal.
Shortly after 1:30 p.m., Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery manager Betsy Finch and husband/volunteer Doug Finch gently removed the immature bald eagle from her carrier. Doug gently but firmly cradled the enormous bird so that all could see.
Following remarks about the condition of the raptor, Betsy and Doug proceeded to an open space where Doug let go of the bird and pushed her into the air. The eagle spread and flapped her enormous wings, swooped low over the grassland and then soared toward the trees and freedom.
Betsy Finch said the young female bald eagle was found near Springfield, Neb., and brought to the center at Fontenelle Forest in August. She said the raptor was thin and lethargic and missing all of her tail feathers for some unknown reason. Finch said the raptor may have been suffering from West Nile virus. Since August, the eagle has regrown her tail feather was ready to return to the wild.
Because she is a young bird, the decision was made to release her at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge due to the large number of eagles that are present at the refuge. The expectation is that she will learn from other bald eagles and find a mate.