3-year-old bald eagle released to the wild after a very close call

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Efforts to bring more bald eagles to Arizona got a boost recently, when a three-year-old was released to the wild after a very close call.

The eagle was found with a broken leg, and only after months of surgery and rehabilitation, it flew free once more.

"This is the easiest part of the job right now. It's just a matter of opening the door and letting him go," said Dr. Stephanie Lamb with Liberty Wildlife. "You have them come in, they are hurt, you don't know how its going to go sometimes."

The day the eagle was released began with a bumpy drive to Horseshoe Lake. Then, volunteers from Liberty Wildlife and Arizona Game and Fish carefully carried the bald eagle in this cage down to the lake's shoreline.

"When he initially came in, he was downed with a fracture in the left leg," said Dr. Lamb.

After it was found, the eagle was stabilized and later underwent surgery for a broken leg at Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix. Dr. Lamb conducted the surgery.

"Where the fracture was, it was in the lower portion of the femur bone and it was really close to the joint. It was only an inch or two above the knee," said Dr. Lamb.

Without the use of his legs, there was little they could do for him.

"He needs his legs to grab his food," said Dr. Lamb. "That's his life. If he doesn't have his legs, he doesn't have anything."

What everyone found out very soon when the eagle was rescued was Arizona Game and Fish had actually been tracking him since 2016. He was born right in the area where he was re-released.

"This bald eagle we banded as a hatchling back in 2016," said Kyle McCarty, Eagle Field Projects Coordinator for Arizona Game and Fish. "I was actually a part of that at a nest a few miles from the lake here."

It's up to McCarty and others at Arizona Game and Fish to track this eagle now, and McCarty was happy about what he's seen so far.

"He looked good. He came off strongly from the cliff here. It's a good quarter mile where he ended up and he made it all the way, so he's looking good," said McCarty. "A few minutes after he was there, I was looking with my binoculars, I saw there was an adult bald eagle who flew over that spot, and I think they both flew over to the tree to the left there."

The eagle has a satellite tracker, which gives Game and Fish a unique opportunity to study a bird so young.

"That satellite information will give us information about areas that are important to this bird that we can conserve and protect," said McCarty.

For everyone who worked so long to return this majestic creature to the wild, it's a payoff they won't soon forget.

"The people who are taking him in, the people who went out to get him, the people who are feeding him and cleaning up after him every day, there is so much that goes into caring for them it's really a success for everyone at Liberty," said Dr. Lamb.