DALLAS COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Inside a shielded crate, a juvenile bald eagle, no more than two years old, was anxious to be set free. It didn't look good for the bird just a few months ago.
"It had a severely broken wing. It was emaciated. It also had an eye infection and was covered with parasites," said Marianne Hudson, Conservationist Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
In fact, James Lawler took photos after a Wilcox County landowner found it.
"I took pictures and it was in pretty bad shape," said Lawler, who is the host for an outdoor radio show in nearby Selma.
The eagle had, at best, two days to live, but fate intervened. Eight months later, ADWF took the bird to the Pine Barren Creek Opportunity Area on the Dallas-Wilcox County line, five miles from where it was found barely alive. The Pine Barren Creek Opportunity Area is a patch of land spanning 4,700 acres right on the Dallas-Wilcox County line off Highway 41 South. The Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries partnered with the Forever Wild Trust to buy the property for the public. The land was purchased with funds from hunting and fishing license sales combined with money from the Forever Wild Trust Fund. The land used to be owned by the Hit-N-Miss Hunting Lodge.
"Not nervous at all. This eagle was well taken care of," said Marianne Hudson, just before putting on her protective eagle gloves.
Hudson says it took about $2,000 to nurse back to health, all of it paid for by the Auburn University Southeast Raptor Center.
With skilled hands and a careful approach, Hudson handled the eagle with the utmost respect and in doing, she felt his strength, power in an 8 pound body.
'"I feel the muscles in the bird's legs and wings," said Hudson.
A short walk to the water's edge, but not before the ceremonial photos were taken, and then the moment of truth. With a gentle push from the head of the wildlife and fisheries department, the eagle took flight, stayed low for about 5 feet and soared.
And so deep in the woods of Dallas County, the eagle is free. It's up to him to make it in the wild. Considering how the bird took flight, no one had any doubt about its future, flying high once again.
"This was the perfect sendoff, a rehabilitated bird," said ADWF director Chuck Sykes.