|Wild Don Byrge releases a golden eagle back into the wild following three months of care and rehabilitation.|
The Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center released three different species of birds back into the Castle Valley area recently, following extensive rehabilitation for all three.
On Sept. 30 center director Debbie Pappas along with several volunteers released a golden eagle into the Wedge Overlook in Emery County. The eagle came to the center with a virus, according to Pappas.
"We tested the bird for West Nile, but she came up negative. So we never identified the type of virus but whatever the cause she was too weak to hunt and she was starving," said Pappas.
The golden eagle stayed at the sanctuary for two months to regain its strength and then was released.
Besides being the mascot for the College of Eastern Utah, golden eagles are large birds of prey found all across the west, Canada and Alaska. According to desertusa.com, the birds prefer open country to forests and build large nests in trees or cliff walls.
Typically females are larger than male golden eagles and are characterized by their brown all over plumage with some white at the base of the tail and gold to blond feathers along the head. Golden eagles hunt with their sight primarily and will attack prairie dogs, cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits and squirrels along with many other small creatures.
"We have gotten several eagles that have been hit by vehicles and it is amazing what we can bring a bird back from," said Pappas.
Early in September, Pappas and center volunteers including Connie Waddell released a red tail hawk that had been found nearly dead in Slot Canyon in Emery County about 4 months ago.
The bird was located by hikers who worked for several days to locate an organization that would go out and help them free the bird in the remote location.
"Everyone kept saying, it's not my job, I'm not going out there," explained Pappas. "And by the time we got out there that bird was hours away from its death."
According to Pappas the hawk had most likely come into the canyon in a wider area chasing prey and eventually became wedged in an area couldn't turn around or open its wings. The severely dehydrated bird required constant care during the first couple of weeks.
"When we got that hawk, it had worn its beak and talons down so far that it was unable to hunt. It was back in shape after three months and we were able to release it. It meant a lot to me that those hikers took the time to help us save that bird," said Pappas.
The red-tailed hawk belongs to a category of birds known as raptors with hunting prowess. The red-tailed is the most common of the buzzard hawk family. It is estimated that the sight of a hawk is eight times more powerful than a human, according to desertusa.com.
Lastly on Sept. 27 the local animal rehabilitation group released a clutch of five screech owls at the top of Spring Canyon.
According to Pappas the birds were orphaned at a young age when the mother was killed. She received the owls from another bird rehabilitation center and cared for the birds for approximately three weeks before releasing them.
"One of the difficult things about the owls was that they were so cute that you wanted to pet them. But it is critical that they maintain their wild nature and fear humans, so there was a strict hands off policy," quipped Pappas.
According to Pappas the sanctuary is noticing an increase in human related problems for birds locally.
"Lately, we have seen everything from birds caught in traps to gunshots and poisonings. But our main problem is still vehicles striking birds," explained Pappas.
She suggested that motorists honk whenever they see a bird come close to vehicles. She also wanted to inform Carbon County residents that, while most birds have finished fall migrations, some species are still preparing to move for the winter.
Pappas encouraged all residents to be mindful and cautious for the sake of the local wildlife.