CIRCLEVILLE — The bald eagle is America’s symbol of freedom, and one bald eagle got a new chance at freedom after being released in Pickaway County over the weekend.

The Ohio Wildlife Center, in cooperation with the Appalachia Ohio Alliance released a bald eagle at Marsha Gunder Schneider Preserve on Sunday after three months of care and rehabilitation at the Ohio Wildlife Center. The Preserve is located in Southern Central Ohio, near the Pickaway County Airport.

“Releasing a bald eagle, the symbol of the United States, is always a fulfilling moment for everyone at Ohio Wildlife Center who worked toward its successful recovery and release,” Dusty Lombardi, executive director of the Ohio Wildlife Center, said. “Our free community wildlife hospital provided the emergency care this raptor needed, and our goal from the beginning was to see this eagle fly to freedom.”

According to the Ohio Wildlife Center, the eagle was captured after a tip came in on July 5 reporting a “large raptor” walking in the caller’s yard that did not seem to be able to fly. A couple of rescue volunteers captured the eagle and brought it to the Ohio Wildlife Center where lead veterinarian Dr. Melinda Marksz works.

Marksz’s assessment concluded the eagle was dehydrated, weak, and was covered in parasites. The eagle also tested positive for West Nile virus and received care for the virus and its other ailments before being transported to the pre-release facility who prepared it for its flight on Sunday.

Al Altfater, president of Appalachia Ohio Alliance, said its mission is to create spaces, like the Marsha Gunder Schneider Preserve to have these releases.

“Our organization loves to conserve open space land, especially near waterways,” Altfater said. “It’s great for eagles and migrating birds if we can provide the necessary habitat and those animals will be able to flourish. We think we can provide the habitat for wildlife centers or any other facilities to do the releases they need.”

In total the Ohio Wildlife Center treated three eagles in 2019 and five in 2018. Bald eagle populations in Ohio are on the rise up from a low of four breeding pairs in 1979 to more than 200 in 2017.

Altfater said to his knowledge this was the first release of a rescued eagle on Appalachia Ohio Alliance land.

“We’d welcome any releases similar to this,” Altfater commented. “If our land can help other animals thrive we’d welcome that.”

Altfater said some of AOA’s land is more open for public use, such as the Bartley Preserve in Pickaway County, than other land but they still want people to enjoy their property and land.

“Sometimes it just comes down to a Field of Dreams and if you build it they will come,” he added. “We’re building it and letting the land do what it needs to do. Once you provide that habitat the animals will move back in and start using it. We look forward to the public enjoying our properties and hopefully we’ll have more releases in the future.”

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