- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It’s been a long flight for the young female bald eagle, but the bird has finally landed at her new home in Nanjemoy.
The Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center, a site run by Charles County Public Schools, is on 10 acres along the Nanjemoy Creek and offers programs to students, fostering an appreciation for the outdoors, nature, wildlife and natural habitats. It also houses birds of prey for educational programs — a screech owl, barred owl and a red-tailed hawk.
And now — thanks to months of cooperation among the center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Four Lakes Wildlife Center Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wis., and a couple of pilots – the center houses a new bald eagle.
The center, which is home to a male bald eagle that is in his mid-30s — “He’s a grumpy old man,” joked Laura Taylor, an environmental education instructor — lost its other eagle last summer when she had to be put to sleep due to arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries.
Mike Callahan, an environmental education instructor at the center, was on the lookout for another eagle.
“She’ll be a display bird in exhibits and a program bird for school programs,” he said.
Heading to the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council message board, Callahan saw a listing from Brooke Lewis of the Four Lakes Wildlife Center of the Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wis.
Lewis had a young bald eagle that had been rescued in Prairie du Chien, Wis., found malnourished in a backyard drinking from a chlorinated swimming pool.
When the bird first arrived, she was “weak, skinny,” said Lewis, adding that it isn’t uncommon for young wild animals to be underfed. They are new at hunting and aren’t very good at it yet.
The eagle was tube-fed for a while until she became stronger and then she was examined by a veterinarian again and found to have a damaged left eye.
“Eyes are super important to raptors for hunting,” Lewis said. “Any kind of [eye injury] would be [an] impairment to their ability to hunt.”
There was no way the eagle could be released into the wild, so Lewis started looking for Fish and Wildlife approved places where the bird could be placed. Inquiries came from New York, Montana and Northern Utah, but Callahan’s enthusiasm struck Lewis and the Nanjemoy center’s facilities seemed to be perfect for placement of the eagle.
An Eagle Scout is slated to build a flight cage for the new eagle, a 20-foot-by-24-foot cage that will allow the young eagle to stretch her wings and continue to be active, Callahan said.
Now it would just be a matter of getting her from Wisconsin to Maryland.
That’s where Pilots N Paws came in, a group of volunteer pilots who are routinely called on to transport dogs from shelters to areas where adoptive families are waiting for them.
Callahan posted a message on the group’s board looking for a volunteer to transport the bird to Nanjemoy.
Wes Hughes of La Plata, who pilots a single engine Piper Archer out of Maryland Airport in Pomonkey, couldn’t make it to Wisconsin but Pilots N Paws volunteer Mike Greene of Ohio could and Hughes could make it to Ohio.
Greene flew to Wisconsin and picked up the bird on Jan. 9. Hughes and fellow pilot Jim Reed of Pomonkey met Greene in Zanesville, Ohio, and flew the bird — housed in a crate for the journey — to Maryland.
“Most of the time we’re transporting puppies and dogs,” said Hughes, who has been flying for 22 years and volunteering with Pilots N Paws for a few years. “We fly for fun and entertainment but it’s nice to fly and have a purpose.”
And flying an eagle was “really neat,” he added.