PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - It was a dramatic release Monday afternoon for an American bald eagle which was returned to the wild, along the banks of the Wolf River. The adult bird was successfully treated by Wild at Heart Rescue for a lung infection. But there were a few tense moments during its flight to freedom.
"Where's my gloves, are they in here?" asked Doug Pojeky, as he prepared to release the adult, male eagle from its cage.
With an anxious crowd waiting, the eagle nicknamed "Doobs" is ready for release. The bird has spent the past few weeks in rehab for a lung infection.
"A fungal infection that all birds of prey can have. Under stressful conditions, it overtakes their body and makes them extremely weak," explained Missy Dubuisson, the Director of Wild at Heart.
Pojeky, walked the eagle past the line of cameras and cell phones. And with everything set, he smoothly raised the bird to flight. And that initial flight was exceedingly smooth, for the first few seconds.
Just moments after its release and successful first flight, suddenly trouble. The eagle tumbled to the ground while trying to land in a pine tree along the riverbank.
"Uh oh, what happened?" someone shouted.
Tension quickly replaced the joy of release. Pojeky and others quickly crossed the river to reach and rescue the fallen bird.
"What happened is, he was so excited to take off and then he ended up in the tree there and the branch fell and he just kept coming down, down, down. So we thought, oh my gosh, is he injured on his release day? That just would not have been good," said Dubuisson.
Thankfully, the eagle was okay. Just as the rescuers reached the other side, the eagle suddenly emerged, in flight.
"It tried to land and I guess it was just out of practice and it just missed its footing and just started tumbling until we lost it about ten feet from the ground. But it's fine, it flew off," said Eric Wooten.
"Whenever you put the time and effort you do into these birds, you have to be ready for anything. If he would have failed flight, we would have brought him back, and gave him some more time off," said Pojeky.
"Sometimes it's hard to see them go. But this guy was ready to go home," he added.