Source: Sherman Publications

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Wounded bald eagle to be released soon

by David Fleet

June 08, 2011

The 5-year-old male bald eagle from the Gains Twp. area.
The eagle is flying.

That's the word from Maxine Biwer, wildlife rehabilitator at Howell Nature Center, where the 5-year-old bald eagle that was shot in Southwestern Genesee County in February currently resides.

The eagle was found near Ray Road in Gaines Township, about 20 miles west of the village of Holly—just a few miles from Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area. James Nelson, 65, was charged with shooting an endangered species and reckless discharge of a firearm both misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in county jail. The case is pending.

"The eagle is flying very well," said Biwer. "He's flying across the 100-foot flight pen several time each day. We currently have two issues regarding his release—the bottom of his feet were frostbitten and cracked. He's not made to run across the frozen ground. The next issue is returning the bird to an area that may now be occupied by another bald eagle. There could be serious conflict."

After the bird was recovered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a bird rehabilitator from Monroe kept him until he was ready to start flying. Since then the bald eagle has been lodged at the Howell Nature Center.

Julie Oakes, senior wildlife biologist for the DNR, who was part of the team that responded to capture the wounded bird, was very optimistic about its return to the wild.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife, along with the rehabilitators, will decide soon where and when the bird will be released in the wild. The big issue will be the right spot for him if there are no other bald eagles in the area or active nests."

Oakes said the female mate of the young male bald eagle that was shot would have found another partner within a few months.

"There could be a real problem with territory if he's released in the area where another bald eagle is living. It could also be that he is just passing through and has not nested in the area."

Several bald eagles are nesting in the Holly, Groveland township areas, added Oakes.