KINGSPORT, Tenn. — An American bald eagle attacked and injured by a flock of Canada geese last month was released back into the wild.

About a dozen local bird enthusiasts flocked to Riverfront Seafood on Wednesday morning to join with representatives of the American Eagle Foundation and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to witness the release of Chief, an eagle rescued behind the restaurant last month after coming under attack by a small group of seven or eight geese.

“We brought it back to the area where it was found,” said Al Cecere, president and CEO of the AEF. “It flew pretty nicely today, so we’re very happy it’s back in the wild. It seemed like it was flying strong, and we hope it doesn’t have any more problems out here.”

The feathered skirmish between the eagle and the geese took place behind Riverfront Seafood in early April along the banks of the South Fork of the Holston River. Witnesses say the eagle fell into the river after being attacked by a flock of geese, and the geese continued to attack the eagle in the water.

“We’ve had a bunch of bald eagles in the area recently and someone hollered ‘eagle,’ so I was getting ready to go out and do a Facebook Live video and noticed something was not right,” said Wayne Michelli, owner of Riverfront Seafood. “I could tell the eagle was in distress.”

Distress could be an understatement. The eagle was defending itself from a mating pair of geese, along with five or six others. Wildlife officials and local birding enthusiasts believe the geese were defending a nest.

“Every time the eagle went near the nest, the geese would chase her into the water, then the others jumped on top of her,” Michelli said. “I ran in and got a broom and ran the others away.”

Birding Kingsport, the local bird watching club, had also been out along the Greenbelt and were wrapping up their meeting when they noticed the eagle entangled in some limbs on the island behind the restaurant.

The TWRA and Andes Straley Veterinary Hospital of Kingpsort were called for assistance, and a hospital staff member went down to the river that evening to check on the bird. Other locals also stayed nearby to keep an eye on the wounded eagle.

The following day, bird watchers returned and found the eagle standing on the Greenbelt. At that point, the TWRA responded, captured the eagle and sent her on to the Straley Veterinary Hospital for evaluation.

After doing some blood work and a physical exam, the veterinarians determined the eagle did not have any fractures. From there, the eagle went to the University of Tennessee Veterinarian Hospital for treatment of an injured wing, then ultimately to the AEF, a nonprofit organization based in Pigeon Forge whose mission is to protect and care for bald eagles.

“She was pretty weak and beaten up … and at that point we provided supportive care,” said Nancy Zagaya, a veterinary technician with the AEF. “She was first in a small flight area, then a large flight aviary where she gained her strength and her fill of rainbow trout and quail.”

While in the care of the AEF, Chief gained close to two pounds and on the day of her release weighed about 9.6 pounds.


Information from: Kingsport Times-News, http://www.timesnews.net