Injured Eagle Flies Again

A quiet evening walk turned into a 6-month adventure for Lonnie Zellner, chip tester in the kraft mill at Nekoosa. On July 15, he and his wife, Victoria, were taking a stroll when they spotted an injured bird on a football field near their home in Pittsville. As the couple approached the bird, they could see it was an injured bald eagle standing on the ground, unable to fly.

They called the local police department, which contacted a volunteer from the Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI), who willingly captures wounded birds and takes them to the raptor center in Antigo, Wisconsin, a nonprofit group dedicated to caring for injured or orphaned native bird species.

There, experts determined that the 4-year-old eagle, fondly referred to as the “Pittsville Eagle,” was near death from starvation and two broken bones in one wing. They believe the eagle’s shrapnel-like injury occurred during Independence Day fireworks, and because the bird couldn’t fly, it nearly died of starvation. At the raptor center, the Pittsville Eagle began his recovery, and he did remarkably well during the journey.

“We kept in touch with the Raptor Education Center during the healing process, and we received progress reports via Facebook, too,” said Lonnie. “We learned a lot of little-known facts about eagles during this journey—they are amazing, complex creatures.”

On Jan. 16, Lonnie and Victoria were present when the Pittsville Eagle took flight for the first time in nearly six months. “Our eagle was released in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, along the Wisconsin River. It was an incredible sight to see, and I have to say that it was very emotional,” said Lonnie. “We have followed the recovery of this eagle for months, and we feel a special connection to him. It is so gratifying to see our nation’s symbol flying free and proud once again.”

Lonnie and his wife plan to take training to become volunteer transporters. “It’s our way of giving back, and after having this amazing experience, we look forward to helping other injured birds.” n

– Ginny Johnson