MDC, MU Raptor Rehabilitation Project release wild bald eagle in Cole County

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COLUMBIA, Mo.  – After almost three months at a local raptor rehabilitation center, and unfazed by rainy spring weather, an adult female bald eagle successfully took flight this weekend at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Pikes Camp Access on the Osage River in Cole County. The University of Missouri (MU) Raptor Rehabilitation Project partnered with MDC to release the wild bird on public land Saturday, March 25.

Conservation Agent Chris Horn recovered the eagle with an injured talon in December 2016, and protected her until she could be transferred to the care of MU Raptor Rehabilitation Project staff in Columbia. Rogue made a speedy recovery and after several test flights in a 160-foot flight cage, was banded for tracking and brought to Pikes Camp River Access to return to the wild with a new lease on life. 

“Rogue did amazingly well during her rehabilitation,” said Raptor Rehabilitation Project Manager Abby Rainwater. “When she came to our facility, she was so weak from her injury she was unable to fly. With a treatment plan and physical therapy, and with determination, she proved to us she has the strength and skill needed to be released back into the wild.”

Staff at MU’s Raptor Rehabilitation Project put a tracking band on Rogue’s ankle so that scientists can continue to monitor her progress in the wild and add to the growing bank of data MDC keeps on bald eagles.

These raptors once found themselves on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, illegal shooting, and pesticide poisoning. Today, these iconic birds 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 recent 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.

“Being able to help restore such a majestic creature back to the wild is a really wonderful thing,” said Cole County Conservation Agent Chris Horn. “I encourage the public to continue to support conservation of our wildlife and natural resources. Public cooperation and the work of the MU Raptor Rehabilitation program are prime examples of the public taking a stand for wildlife. As a conservation agent, I am proud to have been a part of this awesome moment.”

MDC makes information on bald eagles publicly available and continues 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 through MDC’s online Field Guide at