BY MELANIE BUCK –
Hundreds of spectators looked on as a rehabilitated bald eagle soared back into the wild on Saturday, March 18, at Riverside Park in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Along the banks of the Arkansas River, Tommy Young, wildlife rehabilitator for more than three decades, lifted the raptor high as she spread her wings and went flying across the river.
Although the eagle hit the water before she made it all the way across the expansive river, she swam her way to a rockbar where she sunned for a while. The moment the eagle landed on the river, sounds of gasps and ‘oh no’ could be heard from the crowd. They feared the beautiful creature wouldn’t make it. However, it is a normal occurrence, as Young explained to the audience and television cameras. Before a release, Young makes sure the animal has had a full meal and it sometimes makes it hard for the birds to fly far. “It happens at a lot of releases,” explained Young. “They have full bellies and it makes them heavy and harder to fly. She’ll sit for a while and then take off.”
And sure enough, she did. In less than an hour, she was ready to soar again and remaining spectators, and her rehabilitator, watched as she flew out of sight. Young said she’ll find a place close to nest and live, as long as other eagles in the area allow her to stay. If not, she will find a home a little further away.
The bald eagle was brought to Young after being found on Veterans Day near Hot Springs by an officer with the Arkansas State Police. She had a head injury, fractured wing and ligament sling, and a calcium deposit from an old injury. After months of treatment, it was time for her to return to the wild.
Young has a juvenile bald eagle as well that he has been working with since last Summer. She suffers from zinc poisoning and must wait until this Fall after her molt to be released. That eagle and others animals are still in need of sponsors.
If you would like to help support the efforts of Tommy Young and the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center, donations are always accepted and appreciated. Monetary donations can be made by mailing to: P.O. Box 1881, Mena, AR 71953. Or, direct bank drafts can be sent to Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center accounts at either Union Bank of Mena or Bear State Bank. Non-monetary donations are also needed. Many of the supplies needed can be purchased at the Farmer’s Co-op in Mena and left for Young to pick up. For more information, contact Young at 479-437-3750.
As a 501(c)3 organization, all donations are tax deductible.