TRUCKEE, Calif. — A crowd of about 30 people gathered at the Donner Memorial bridge Sunday to witness the release of a golden eagle by Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, of South Lake Tahoe, and Dayton Valley Wildlife Reststop.
The golden eagle arrived hooded, held securely by LTWC volunteer Jamie Shell, a Navy Lt. Commander based out of Fallon, Nev.
Raptor and man stood in the first full day of fall winds, with a semi-circle of interested parents, children and adults gathered 'round while Evelyn Pickles of Dayton Valley Wildlife Rest Stop told the eagle's story.
The eagle was found on the ground last spring, evidently hit twice by one or two cars in the Topaz Lake area. It was taken to the Dayton Valley facility, given antibiotics, and a nutritious diet of mice and rats. After it had recuperated, it was transferred to LTWC, where it resided in a “flight area” with two other eagles.
“It was a long haul,” said Pickles of the recovery time. “It is a two-fold process — first healing, then rehabilitation.”
Questions popped from the crowd: “Will the winds be a problem?”
According to Pickles, the 6- to 10-foot wingspan is made for wind. The predators cruise 100-150 miles a day, using updrafts to hit the stratosphere in no time.
“Does he just let you pick him up?”
Not an easy task on some days. The birds ready to be released are held in a smaller area, but grabbing them can be tricky because of their powerful talons and beaks.
“Does he have a name?”
The wildlife care agencies prefer not to name the birds and animals, because naming shows possession. The entourage then moved to the vista point ledge, excited to witness the huge predator's release.
A red-tailed hawk was released to the delight of the crowd. Then came the anticipated moment, when Pickles held the golden eagle into the air, and words were said for the bird's safe flight and return to the wild.
With a woosh of its immense wings, the golden eagle flew into freedom.
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The Kokanee Festival offers a variety of educational and entertaining events Oct. 6 and 7. Follow the Rainbow Trail to Taylor Creek, off Highway 89/Emerald Bay Road, and see Kokanee salmon making their way upstream.
LTWC operates a barbecue booth at the Kokanee Festival, offering salmon plates, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos and more. All proceeds benefit LTWC.
Call 530-577-CARE or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to volunteer.