A symbol of freedom takes flight Sunday afternoon

Local

RICHLANDS, N.C. (WNCT) — The bald eagle symbolizes freedom in the United States. That symbolic meaning took flight at the Agape Life Family Church, literally. Rescuers released a bald eagle Sunday afternoon. 

Tonya Weil is an executive director at Wild At Heart Wildlife Sanctuary.  She got a call from a veternarian about the eagle while it was being treated for a hole in its face. The vet told Weil he noticed the eagle had other issues.  

“When we picked him up we saw he had paralysis on the right side of his body, which is usually indicative of a spinal trauma,” Weil said.   

Rescuers also noticed the eagle had lead poisoning, a common, and deadly trend they’re seeing.   

“So, for bald eagles, it’s usually because they’re eating leftover deer, gut piles,” Weil said.   

Rescuers ask hunters to stay away from lead ammo for their guns.  

“Lead is a soft metal, so when it hits bone and hits muscle, it shrapnels throughout the areas of the part, it just doesn’t go in and go out,” said Weil.   

Rescuers spent several weeks flight conditioning the eagle for release.  

“So then we started physical therapy, opening his foot. Moving his leg up.” said Weil.    

After a few weeks, the bird had built enough strength to fly away.  

“We were like ‘He’s ready.’ So we started looking at the weather and said when we can get him back in the wild,” says Weil.   

The eagle takes flight from Agape Church in Richlands, NC

Scott Rader drove from Wilmington to watch the release.  

“I love birds. I want to see them fly,” Rader said.   

He tells us how he felt watching the release.  

“Well, it was very satisfying. I was mostly concerned, that was the biggest part right there was getting off the ground,” says Rader.   

He’s familier with these types of birds.  

“I’m a commercial fisherman, I have a good source of food for them … they’re scavengers, so they enjoy the free meal,” said Rader.   

After the release, the bird circled back – an emotional moment for Weil.

Tonya Weil watches as the bald eagle circles back

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