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Bald eagle released in Hillsboro

Portland Audubon and the Oregon Zoo save the bird

PHOTO COURTESY M SCHMID/AUDUBON SOCIETY OF PORTLAND - A bald eagle was released at the Jackson Bottom preserve last week, returning to the wild after eight months of rehabilitation with the Portland Audobon Society.Hillsboro’s newest resident is settling into his new home after being brought back from the brink of death.

Portland Audubon recently released a large male bald eagle at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in Hillsboro.

The bird had undergone months of rehabilitation at the society’s Portland clinic after it was badly injured in a territorial dispute with another eagle.

“It took a lot of time,” said Lacy Campbell, manager of Portland Audubon’s Wildlife Care Center, which treated the bird. “I was surprised he was able to be released at all.”

The care center took in the bird last March after it was discovered by a Good Samaritan, Campbell said.

“When he first saw it, he thought it was dead,” Campbell said, “but when he went to put it in a plastic bag, he realized it was still breathing.”

When Portland Audubon members arrived to retrieve the bird, it was lying on its back, Campbell said. Its tail and legs had been badly damaged and it had an old bullet wound in its wing. The bird was unable to fly and needed surgery in order to clean out dead tissue.

That’s when the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary center took over.

“The Oregon Zoo has been a wonderful resource to Portland Audubon’s rehabilitation efforts, sharing their veterinary staff and services,” Portland Audubon wrote on its blog. “The eagle needed to be sedated for the hour-long procedure on both legs, where large amounts of tissue in his muscles were cut out and then sewn back up.”

PHOTO COURTESY M SCHMID/AUDUBON SOCIETY OF PORTLAND - The bald eagle was likely injured fighting with another eagle back in March, and was not expected to survive, but it slowly recovered from its injuries and was able to be released back into the wild.It took eight months for the eagle to heal. The bird wasn’t able to stand for the first week after surgery so he crawled on his wings, which damaged his feathers, making him unable to fly, said Campbell, who solved that problem by transplanting two primary feathers onto his left wing. The bird will eventually grow new feathers, and lose the transplanted ones, according to the Oregon Zoo.

Campbell said the bird should be able to live out its life in the Hillsboro area. Jackson Bottom is home to spawning salmon for the bird to eat, and territorial battles in the area are low, she said.

“If we think an animal is going to be releasable, we’ll do whatever we can to help,” she said.

After releasing the eagle, Campbell remembered when the bird first arrived at the care center: “He was in terrible shape. But he kept improving, little by little. Day by day. He kept going, so we kept going.”