Big release

Eagle event helps spirits soar


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Bird TLC volunteer Dave Dorsey shows an adult bald eagle during an educational presenation before the bird release.

MATT TUNSETH

 

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let go.

That’s what was going through the mind of Dr. Dan Hull during this year’s Eagle River Nature Center spring auction, where the recent Alaska transplant submitted the winning bid to release a rehabilitated bald eagle back into the wild.

“I had been going through a rough time personally, so when I had the opportunity to release this eagle, I just thought I would be releasing more than just the bird,” Hull said Saturday, June 16, moments after lifting the lid on a large box and sending the bird back into its natural environment.

Hull said the feeling he got from watching the bird return to the wild was overwhelming.

“I could feel my heart beating tachycardic,” he said, using the medical term for a rapid heartbeat.

The bird released by Dr. Hull was found injured near Egegik in March according to Dave Dorsey, a volunteer with Bird TLC, the nonprofit that rehabilitated the eagle.

“It was electrocuted,” Dorsey said. “His upper and lower beak burned, there was blood in its mouth and was kinda loopy, I guess you could say.”

The bird was flown to Anchorage, where Bird TLC staff nursed it back to health until it was ready for Sunday’s release, which took place at the Eagle River Nature Center. Around 100 people packed tightly around Dorsey, as he first gave an educational presentation on bald eagles featuring one of the center’s captive birds as a prelude to the main event. As the eagle spread its wings, cameras flashed and children oohed and ahhed at the bird’s massive 8-foot wing span.

During his presentation, Dorsey told the crowd that Alaska is a special place for our national bird.

“There’s an estimated 145,000 bald eagles in North America, and 50 percent of that population is in Alaska,” Dosey said.

The center takes in about 30 injured birds of prey each year, Dorsey said. He said anyone who sees an injured raptor (eagles, hawks, owls) should call the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or Fish and Wildlife troopers. Large, injured raptors should not be handled, he said. However, the center also takes in smaller birds, which can be put in a shoebox and brought to the center, which is located at C Street and 64th Ave. in Anchorage.

“We take in all birds from little chickadees all the way to bald eagles, as long as they’re native to Alaska or they migrate through Alaska,” he said.

Following Dorsey’s talk, volunteers with Bird TLC brought out a special release box containing the star of the show.

After Dr. Hull raised the eagle’s roof, the bird immediately flew away from the crowd, then stopped to perch on a nearby tree — giving the appreciative crowd plenty of time to snap pictures.

Kelly Meola, on vacation from Pittsburgh, said getting to see the birds up close was a highlight of her trip to Alaska.

“It was breathtaking,” she said. “This is the kind of stuff I live for.”

No one was more thrilled than Dr. Hull, who said the event did indeed prove to be an emotional release.

“The way he was looking around and realizing he was out in the wild now and was free, it just felt really good,” he said.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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