JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Mississippi bald eagle has made its return to the wild months after being struck by a bullet. Back in March, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say a passerby found the wounded bird in Pearlington. After months of rehabilitation spanning two states, the eagle made a full recovery.
On Saturday, those who have cared for the animal gathered for a release at the Sandhill Crane Refuge in Jackson County. Dozens of people came out to celebrate the bald eagle's transition from shooting victim to success story. Caregivers say a bullet left the bird with a wound on its breast and a broken bone in its wing.
"You have to take that wing wrap off of that bird at least a couple times a week," said Alison Sharpe of the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center. "Pull the wing out to do physical therapy so the wing doesn't freeze in that position. And so for the next couple of months that's exactly what we did. "
Volunteers for the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center nursed the eagle until it was well enough to go to the Auburn University Raptor Center to build muscle strength.
Liz Crandall is a rehabilitation specialist at Auburn. "It definitely belongs in the wild. It's not something we would want to keep any way. If something is releasable, we would definitely want to keep it back in the wild so it can mate with another bald eagle. Keep the numbers in check. "
Although bald eagles are no longer on the endangered list, rehabilitation specialists say people need to help make sure they continue to thrive. That's why Wildlife Care and Rescue is so excited about it's first bald eagle release.
"We see so many of these types of injuries where the animals don't recover,"said Sharpe. "To take a bird as magnificent as a bald eagle and watch the whole recovery process take place. I'm just absolutely excited."
Shooting a bald eagle is illegal so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident hat happened around March 28th in Pearlington. Officials say there is an up to $2,500 reward for information leading to a conviction. If you know anything you can call 985-882-3756. You don't have to give your name.