People gathered, cameras at the ready, at the Soldotna Little League Fields on Kalifornsky-Beach Road for the 3rd annual eagle release at Soldotna Progress Days Saturday afternoon.
Before the release, Dave Dorsey of Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage told the crowd about the particular eagle about to be let back into the wild.
He said the mature eagle was probably less than 10 years old and had been rescued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife near Sand Point on March 5. A halibut fishing hook was discovered in the end of the eagle’s right wing — where a human’s wrist would be. The hook made it painful to fly and the eagle wasn’t hunting or eating well.
Dorsey said he doesn’t know how the hook got in the eagle’s wing. The bird could have been eating a carcass that had a fisherman’s lost hook in it, he said. A handful of birds get entangled in fishing line or hook themselves, so it’s not uncommon for birds to be injured by lost gear, Dorsey said.
Four participants opened the box to release the healed eagle — Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson, Eagle Scout Daniel Lewis, Alaska Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jason Stokes and Air Force veteran Ray Freeborn.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of it, and was really proud to do it,” Freeborn said.
“It was awesome,” Stokes said about opening the box and releasing the eagle.
After the box was opened, the eagle flew out and circled back once before it landed on a nearby spruce tree and posed for photos taken by spectators.
Dorsey said Bird TLC will be back for Progress Days next year.
Bird TLC takes in all kinds of injured birds from chickadees to eagles to swans to be treated, he said. About half of these birds go back to the wild.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.