Eastern Shore Wildlife Rescue Team Reunites for Eagle Release

Edward Clark Jr. keeps a firm grip on the talons of the eagle and hugs him close for a few moments while the bird adjusts to the light and surrounds of Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area Preserve. Photo by Jim Ritch.

Story and Photos by Jim Ritch —

Eagle 20-3608 returned home Wednesday, taking flight over the 516 acres of Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area Preserve after a four-month convalescence for a broken wing.

“He probably has family. We like to say, ‘he’s going home,’” said wildlife rehabilitator Jodie Sokel, of the nonprofit Wildlife ER, which helped rescue the eagle.

The eagle’s odyssey began Nov. 20 deep in the woods off Mason Road near Bloxom when Darin Dick, wildlife officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saw the injured bird on the ground during a routine patrol.

The bird tried to run away but didn’t travel very far.

“He was not at all happy with my presence,” said Dick.

Dick called Sokel and asked her to join him with a cage, net, and gloves to catch the bird as the two have done before many times.

“This eagle is so lucky; it was way far back in the woods. I don’t know what would have happened to him” without the rescue, said Sokel.

One approached the bird from the front to distract it, while the other used a long-handled net to cover it.

The short wrestling match that ensued was a good sign for the bird’s survival.

“The more fight there is in them, the better their chances,” said wildlife rehabilitator Gay Frazee, also of Wildlife ER.

The first stop for the bird was the Painter clinic of Eastern Shore Animal Hospital and veterinarian Dr. George Marble, who wrapped the bird to stabilize the wing and prepare it for a long, four-hour drive the next day.

The bird rested overnight in a special building at the home of Sokel before traveling to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, in Waynesboro, Va. Licensed wildlife transporter Thum Allen drove up from Hampton to pick up the bird.

When the eagle arrived, a veterinarian saw the broken bones in an X-ray, but described the eagle as depressed and prescribed another night of rest before surgery.

Then, a team of two veterinarians set the broken bone and pinned the pieces together.
Time healed the wing, and the eagle graduated to a 100-foot flight pen, where it proved its flying ability and endurance.

Edward Clark Jr., president of the Wildlife Center, carried the bird to Mutton Hunk Wednesday and told a group of about six local wildlife officials that this bird “best exemplified teamwork,” because of the many individuals who had a hand in helping it.

Clark gave Sokel the honor of removing the hood over the eagle’s eyes, then held the bird for a few moments to let it adjust to its surroundings.

When he lifted the eagle into the air and its wings unfurled, it started a trip of only about 7 miles to the spot where it had been found, presumably near its home.

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