STARVED ROCK STATE PARK, Ill.
November 26, 2011
A really joyous moment for the people that came to the banks of the sleepy Illinois River to witness a little miracle — a happy ending, or an anxious beginning, depending on how you look at it.
Two young bald eagles were about to be released into the wild, more than five months after a storm blew them 85 feet to the ground from their nest, high atop a tree in suburban Chicago.
These eagles have already done remarkably well, given the fact that they weren't even capable of flying when they were first rescued. At the time, rescuers built a new nest for them in hopes that their parents would come back and care for them. But that didn't happen.
Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation volunteers have rescued wild animals and countless birds — hawks, turkey vultures, owls. But this was the first time they'd rehabilitated eaglets and helped them learn to fly. Indeed, the fact that this release was happening in a state like Illinois is a testament to how far the bald eagle has come in the last 40 years.
Plum Island, once slated for a development of cabins and a marina until a local Audubon Society chapter purchased it, is now a protected sanctuary where eagles like to congregate. "On a good day, you might see 40 or 50 eagles on this island in the winter months,"
Saving animals is not cheap. Flint Creek Rehab already had a flight chamber for smaller birds, but had to have a 100-foot enclosure built for the eaglets. The total cost to raise them? About $20,000, not including food donations from a local grocery store.
Keller says it was well worth it to be able to experience this moment.
"We raise the animals to be wild. None of them like us. None of them thank us — and none of them pay bills," she quipped.
"Good luck, baby," she said, as the first eagle extended its wings and flew out of her arms. It soared over the crowd, then disappeared into a forest of oak and hickory trees on the island.
"Good luck, buddy," she said to the other, which made a bee-line for that same forest.
Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation http://www.flintcreekwildlife.org/