COLUMBIA, Mo. – After a months-long stint at a local raptor rehabilitation center, and unfazed by icy cold weather, a young bald eagle successfully took flight this weekend at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in Boone County. The University of Missouri (MU) Raptor Rehabilitation Project partnered with MDC to release the wild bird on public land Saturday, Dec. 17.
The MU Raptor Rehabilitation Project in Columbia received the bird, named Kilimanjaro, in August with a wing injury that prevented him from being able to fly. Kilimanjaro made a speedy recovery and after several test flights in a 160-foot flight cage, was brought to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area to return to the wild, with a new lease on life.
“Kilimanjaro did amazingly well during his rehabilitation,” said Raptor Rehabilitation Project Manager Abby Rainwater. “We were able to stabilize the injured joint and provide physical therapy, which Kilimanjaro responded well to. With a lot of hard work, on both our side and his, Kilimanjaro’s determination proved to us he was ready to be released back into the wild.”
Bald eagles once found themselves on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, illegal shooting, and pesticide poisoning. Today, these iconic raptors are recovering and returning to their native habitat in Missouri.
“The public plays a critical role in providing information to us on eagle nesting sites across the state,” said MDC Resource Scientist Janet Haslerig. “During the spring of 2016, statewide surveys documented 284 active eagle nests in Missouri, and through a flurry of enthusiastic responses for public reporting, that number is expected to increase considerably.”
Thanks to decades of dedicated work by scientists and citizen-science contributions alike, as well as effective protective regulations at the state and federal levels, America’s national bird is experiencing resurgence. Missouri’s woods and river banks once again provide prime habitat and opportunities to observe these powerful raptors in their natural environment.
“Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area is a great place for this rehabilitated eagle to find a new home, not only because we have ‘eagle’ in our name, but because this area provides quality habitat for these large birds of prey,” said MDC Wildlife Biologist and Eagle Bluffs Area Manager Clayton Light. “During late January and early February, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area provides shelter for peak numbers of these raptors, and plenty of opportunities for people to come see them in action.”
Staff at MU’s Raptor Rehabilitation Project put a tracking band on Kilimanjaro’s ankle so that scientists can continue to monitor his progress in the wild and add to the growing bank of data The Department keeps on bald eagles.
MDC makes information on bald eagles publicly available and will continue to work to protect the species so that future generations of Missourians may continue to enjoy watching them nest in our woods and feed in our rivers and fields.
Learn more about bald eagles, and find places to watch them in the wild, including at upcoming Eagle Days events at mdc.mo.gov.