- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - After almost 28 years living in the wild, a bald eagle that was part of a reintroduction program at Lake Monroe is recovering in a Nashville-area rehabilitation center.

Known as C14, the number on its leg band, the eagle is the oldest bald eagle known to be living in Indiana. The bird was brought to Indiana from a nest in Lincoln County, Wisconsin, and arrived at a special hacking tower - an artificial nest - at Lake Monroe on June 9, 1987.

After growing accustomed to the area, the juvenile bird was released from the tower in September 1987 as part of the second year of juvenile bald eagles in the reintroduction program.

Nothing had been reported about the bald eagle before it was discovered on a river bank last week by property owners who live east of Worthington in Greene County.

Licensed rehabilitators with Indiana Raptor Center were called and picked up the eagle, which had a dislocated right wing.

“The primary problem with the bird was that it was terribly emaciated,” said Laura Edmunds, vice president and director of education with the Indiana Raptor Center.

Edmunds said the bird was taken to Dr. Jennifer Clarke, a veterinarian at Hillview Vet Hospital in Franklin. Clarke determined the humerus bone was broken. “In a person, it would be poking it in the ribs,” Edmunds explained. It appeared the bird had been standing on the ground for days.

The major medical problem for the eagle at first was “bringing it back,” meaning hydrating the bird and then getting the bird to eat properly, Edmunds explained. The first 72 hours are the most crucial for injured raptors, she said.

Now the eagle is “shoving down quail,” Edmunds said. “He’s really eating well. The bird has a wonderful personality and is extremely bright. I can see how it got to be almost 29 years old; it catches on to stuff quickly.”

Edmunds often refers to the bird as “he,” even though it has not yet been determined which sex it is. When it was released from the hacking tower, C14 was listed as female, but Edmunds believes it may be a male based on observation and physical size. A DNA sample taken from C14 will determine which sex it is, but the results have not yet been fully processed.

As C14 continues to improve, Edmunds is hopeful that the bald eagle will make it. But C14 will never fully recover movement of its wing, meaning it can never be released back into the wild.

Rehabbers at Indiana Raptor Center are evaluating the bird’s pain level and will continue to do so every two to three weeks for the next couple of months. If C14 is pain-free, the hope is that it can be placed in a facility as a display bird, “where he can sit in the sun and bathe and eat,” Edmunds said. “If the bird becomes pain-free, there’s no reason it can’t live out its life in a display area.”

If C14 continues to experience pain, Edmunds said, it is best to put the bird down. That determination will be made by the veterinarian.

Edmunds is surprised at how well C14 has adapted to eating food out of a dish, until she is reminded that as an eaglet, C14 was fed that way in the hacking tower. That has made C14’s time at the raptor center easier on the bird and its rehabbers, Edmunds said, adding that often older birds have a more difficult time adjusting.

In order for a bald eagle to become a captive bird, a thorough process has to be followed, according to Allisyn Gillet, bird biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

First, a bald eagle is considered for educational purposes, Gillet said.

If a bald eagle cannot be used for educational purposes, then Native American tribes get the first chance to take the bird, Gillet said. The birds are kept and their feathers are used for cultural purposes, she said. Anyone else will face federal fines if they possess a feather or any other part of a bald eagle.

If no Native American tribe wants the bald eagle, then zoos can vie for the bird, Gillet said. And if no zoos want the bald eagle, then rehabbers in the state have the opportunity to take the bird.

No matter where C14 spends the rest of its days, Gillet said that any bald eagle older than 20 is considered old. The lifespan of a bald eagle is up to 48 years in captivity and 21 years in the wild, according to the DNR website.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1UfEZyN

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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