Bald Eagle who suffered gunshot released back into wild at Seven Bends

Bald eagle
This bald eagle was found in Luray in September of 2023, and after months of treatment at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, it was released on June 6, 2024 in Seven Bends State Park in Shenandoah County.

Wildlife Center of Virginia found multiple pellets in immature bird

WOODSTOCK, June 6 — After eight months of care at the Wildlife Center of Virginia near Waynesboro, a female bald eagle found last fall in Luray was released this week in Seven Bends State Park. Multiple pellets from a gunshot wound were found in the eagle, and even after multiple surgeries to repair fractures, its left wing may never completely recover. However, doctors gave the green light and patient #23-3492 was cleared for takeoff on Thursday.

A crowd of about 170 joined the staff of the Wildlife Center for the release near Woodstock, Va. After a short presentation on the eagle’s story, veterinary intern “Dr. Emma” — who had performed several of the surgeries to repair the eagle’s wing  — received the honor of opening the crate and watching the eagle take her first flight back into the wild.

“This eagle came to the Center at almost the same time that I did, and was one of my first orthopedic surgeries,” Dr. Emma said. ” It was bittersweet… I am so happy to see her back home, but it was also a reminder that my internship at the Center is coming to an end. I’ll miss being a part of this work.”

On Sept. 20, 2023, the immature bald eagle was admitted to the Wildlife Center after being safely transported to the Waynesboro facility by a local falconer, who found her on the ground in Luray, unable to fly. On admission, the Center’s veterinary team found that the eagle was in a thin body condition and had several fractures of her left wing, along with extensive bruising and open wounds. Radiographs revealed multiple pellets throughout the eagle’s body, indicating that she was shot. The eagle also had injuries to her right eye as well as elevated blood lead levels.  

During the next two months, Bald Eagle #23-3492 had several surgeries to repair her fractured wing. In January, she moved to an outdoor flight pen to slowly regain her physical strength and stamina. The veterinary and rehabilitation teams were unsure if this eagle would regain full use of her left wing due to the severe nature of her injuries, but during the past couple of months, the eagle made slow, but steady, improvements during her daily flight conditioning.

The eagle can now gain and maintain lift during flight, is able to maneuver in a 100-foot flight space, and has strong stamina. By the end of May 2024, the eagle was cleared for release back into the wild, though the eagle does have a noticeable tilt to the left during flight — a permanent reminder of being shot.  

An update on the WCV website acknowledges that information about the gunshot wounds was not originally released until being cleared.

“One note that has not been previously shared about the bird, but now can after getting clearance from the state biologist and federal agents, is that the cause of the eagle’s injuries was a gunshot,” the notice states. “Radiographs revealed many pellets throughout the eagle’s body; vet staff immediately reported the findings to law enforcement, and the case was under investigation while the bird received treatment at the Center.”

    Since the non-profit was founded in 1982, the Wildlife Center of Virginia has treated nearly 100,000 animals representing more than 200 species brought to the center by VDGIF and a wide network of volunteers stretching across the Old Dominion. Not all of the animals get released back into the wild due the severity of their condition when they arrive.

    For those who would like to volunteer to help Virginia’s wildlife as a transporter in Page County, or for those who would like to donate to the non-profit’s mission, visit their website at:

    For more information the recent Bald Eagle release, CLICK HERE.



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