BROOKS, W.Va. (AP) — A year-old golden eagle caught in a Monroe County coyote trap last November has been nursed back to health and will spend the next few years helping scientists learn more about its species' migration patterns.
"Luckily, only one of his toes was caught in the trap," said Wendy Perrone, director of the Three Rivers Avian Center, who traveled to a field near Salt Sulphur Springs on Nov. 14 to free the bird of prey. Once back at TRAC's Summers County raptor rehabilitation facility, the young male eagle's toe was splinted, he was put on a diet of rats, and he was treated for an infestation of lice picked up during his travels.
"He eventually got tired of rats, so we started feeding him road-kill deer," Perrone said. "He's gained over a pound on the 7 pounds, 3 ounces he weighed when he first came here."
Before long, the eagle, nicknamed Golden Boy, was introduced to physical therapy in TRAC's recently completed flight barn, equipped with a circular, 12-foot-wide flight lane that circles the barn's interior, allowing extended flight to take place.
"He's been the model patient," said Ron Perrone, TRAC's co-director. "He's really laid back and non-aggressive when we have to handle him. The trap broke his toe, but he developed what's called a false joint that allows him to use his talons well enough to hunt."
"He can fly well, he can hang upside down from the ceiling rafters, and he is able to get his own prey," said Wendy Perrone. "There's really no point in keeping him here any longer."
But before releasing Golden Boy in time to begin his presumed migration to points north, the eagle was visited by Dr. Tricia Miller, a wildlife biologist with WVU's Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. Miller is part of a WVU golden eagle research team studying the range, population and migration patterns of eastern golden eagles, as well as the differences between eastern golden eagles and their much more abundant western cousins.