It came to them bedraggled, burned and covered in slime. Just weeks later, a miraculous transformation had taken place as the bald eagle, healed from its plunge into a toxic chemical pond, once again flew free.
The rehabilitated, four-year-old male bald eagle was released back into the wild on Saturday July 12 at Jamestown Beach in Williamsburg, Virginia. The eagle had been recovered from a sediment pond at the Evonik Goldschmidt Corp., a medicines manufacturer in Hopewell, VA, suffering from chemical burns and covered in foul-smelling polyether-and-glycol residue.
“When we first received the eagle, he was in pretty bad shape including chemical burns to his skin underneath his feathers,” said Jimmy Two Hawks Beamer (Cherokee), CEO and co-founder of Sacred Friends, Inc., a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation organization in Virginia that rehabilitated the bird. “The eagle was completely covered with gooey slime and he smelled horrible, it took more than five baths to get him clean. Then we had to allow a few weeks for the natural oil on the feathers to build back up from preening.”
The eagle was rehabilitated by Sacred Friends Inc., and received supplementary care from the Midway Veterinarian Hospital in Chesapeake, Virginia.
“Whenever an animal is injured, you always want them to get better,” said Pearl Beamer (Lakota), co-founder and secretary of Sacred Friends. “But I’ll be honest—we really wanted this young guy to get better. He was very feisty! He has acted like a Cooper’s Hawk in that he didn’t really glide from spot to spot like an eagle, but bounced all over his cage, just pinging back and forth.”
Moments before its release, the young raptor appeared healthy and alert and certainly willing to hiss, snap his beak at the handlers and let it be clearly known he was ready to be set free.
“It is so good to see such organizations as Sacred Friends protecting and rehabilitating native wildlife, especially this bald eagle which has been given a chance to survive and thrive,” said Brad Scott (Chickasaw), CEO and President of Cetan Corp., a Native American and Veteran owned business in Chesapeake, Virginia. “It is the bird of freedom, which is just a phenomenal statement.”
Scott, who has supported the efforts of Sacred Friends for the past two years and contributed $500 toward the day’s efforts and the eagle’s care, was one of about 50 onlookers who came to watch the majestic bird find its way back into the wild.
“We run on donations to do this work,” said Jimmy Beamer. “To have support like this from Brad Scott of Cetan Corp. is so appreciated.”
Beamer also expressed gratitude for donations that come in through the Sacred Friends website, as well as the group’s volunteers. Kudos went to Charlene Braman, a veterinary technician from Midway Veterinarian Hospital in Chesapeake, who was “of great help through the eagle’s recovery,” Jimmy Beamer said, as was Tony Poutous, a veterinarian and the owner of Midway.
The Beamers have asked Evonik Goldschmidt Corp., where the eagle was first discovered, to cover its pond, suspecting that the bird dove in thinking it was going to find a tasty meal.
“We were contacted by Mike Sheridan, the Virginia media relations person from Evonik Goldschmidt,” said Pearl Beamer. “We have stayed in touch with him throughout the eagles’ recovery process. When we suggested the company put a net over the sediment pond, he said they would look into it.”
Shortly before the eagle’s release, licensed biologist and bird handler Reese Lukei banded its leg and took measurements. Although the bird looked healthy, she said it definitely needed to gain weight.
“We are glad to be releasing this eagle,” said Lukei. “His first order of business is to go catch a fish.”
Watch the video below to see the eagle’s heartwarming flight to freedom.