EATON TWP. - An American bald eagle was restored to the wild in Sugar Hollow, Wyoming County, last Saturday afternoon.
Retired Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer Gene Gaydos said he had received a distress call on July 12 about a golden eagle that had been residing on a rural property about a mile and a half west of Marsha’s Sugar Hollow Diner on Route 29.
The veteran of 38 years with the Pennsylvania Game Commission quickly went up, and was surprised to find a bald eagle, not golden, but more surprised that he could practically walk up to it.
“There was clearly something wrong with it, because he just sat there,” Gaydos said.
“I have seen them up close - well, maybe at a distance of 100 feet,” he said, “but once they see you, they tend to scatter.”
So, Gaydos contacted a longtime associate familiar with raptors and the next day they captured the eagle which was taken to the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in Milford to get a diagnosis.
According to Jan Lucciola, a rehabber who returned the bird to Sugar Hollow via a van, the eagle had a blood draw done, and had been discovered to have a near toxic level of lead in it, possibly from having eaten a dead carcass that had buck shot in it or maybe a fish that had swallowed a lead weight.
“It clearly wasn’t itself,” Gaydos said.
But the raptor center seemed to know what to do, to get the animal to excrete the lead and regain its strength.
Lucciola said it was placed under surveillance in a 24-square-foot space - all to itself - and fed a regular diet of fish, road kill squirrels and rats.
About 10 days ago, Gaydos said he called to see how the eagle was doing and thought it would be released in Pike County near the raptor center.
But he said that all seemed to be in agreement that the eagle needed to return to where it was found as it was the area it was most familiar with.
And so, Lucciola got her bearings straight and arrived in Sugar Hollow around 3 p.m. where about a dozen observers including Rebecca Lesko of the Endless Mountains Nature Center, were waiting to hopefully watch the eagle take flight again.
Lucciola removed the eagle from a cardboard box affair and held tight to it, asking everyone nearby to get way behind her so the animal wouldn’t be frightened.
It opened its beak and hissed at her, which Gaydos said was a good thing because the 2-year-old female wasn’t feisty when he first discovered her three weeks earlier.
Lucciola continued to clutch the eagle while they both looked eastward along a little brook in Sugar Hollow Run.
Then she opened her arms, and the bald eagle glided away, as Lucciola beamed.
“It was a good day,” she said.