After months of rehabilitation and preparation, Arizona’s only satellite-tracked bald eagle soared free recently when it was released at Roosevelt Lake by Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists and rehabilitation specialists from Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation of Scottsdale.
The 4-year-old male was found at Canyon Lake with a broken wing that required medical treatment. Once the wing healed, rehabilitators at Liberty Wildlife worked with the bird to rebuild muscle strength for flying.
Hatched in 2008 from a nest site near the lower Verde River, biologists fitted the bald eagle with a solar-powered GPS transmitter prior to release. Biologists are excited at the rare opportunity to now track an adult bald eagle and learn more about its habits, migrations and possible breeding activities. The transmitter is lightweight and does not interfere with the bird’s flight or activities.
“It is very rewarding to take a bald eagle that may not have otherwise survived and rehabilitate it to the point where it can be released back into the population, especially a bird that was hatched in the state and will hopefully contribute to the population in the future,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program.
The state had 54 breeding pairs of bald eagles this year. The bald eagle population in Arizona has grown nearly 600 percent since it was originally listed on the federal Endangered Species list in 1978, thanks in part to management efforts supported by the Heritage Fund. The Heritage Fund is a voter-passed initiative that was started in 1990 to further wildlife conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, through Arizona Lottery ticket sales.
Courtship and nest building begin in October and November, and the bald eagles lay eggs from December to March. During the spring, many areas are closed to protect breeding bald eagles around the state.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages the bald eagle as part of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee a broad coalition of 23 government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes. Additional information on bald eagles and the breeding season closures can be found at www.azgfd.gov/baldeagle or www.swbemc.org.