A juvenile bald eagle on death's door just a month ago took flight in Short Hills, N.J. on Wednesday.
It was an amazing recovery for the bird found staggering and unable to fly next to New Jersey American Water Company's Canoe Brook Reservoir, across a highway from the Short Hills Mall.
"It's a jungle out there, it's tough being a predatory bird," said Dr. Leonard Soucy of the non-profit The Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ.
It was his specialists who determined the less than one year old bald eagle had lead poisoning. When first turned over to The Raptor Trust, the bird's lead level was over 30ppm(parts per million)--close to a fatal dose.
After several weeks of treatment, including two 'chelations' where a chemical agent introduced into her system actually binds with the lead ions and is discharged from the body. After that, her level came down to a much more manageable 9ppm.
Soucy said studies he's seen show that as many as 75 per cent of raptors die before reaching their first birthday, from a variety of causes.
But not 'Brook', as she was nicknamed by the folks at New Jersey American Water. The treatment, and a diet of $20-a-day whiting fish brought her back to health and a dramatic release back at the reservoir where her family apparently lives. (NJ American Water donated $1000 to the Trust to help defray some of their costs in caring for 'Brook')
"Hopefully she'll do well," said Cathy Malok of The Raptor Trust, after spending much of the past month working with the bald eagle.
The lead she ingested likely came from either eating an animal shot with lead buckshot, or eating waterfowl such as ducks which dive to get their food.
"A lot of these lakes, ponds, rivers where they have hunted for 150 years with lead pellets, sometimes they get into the food chain," said The Raptor Trust's Soucy.
While Soucy said there is no guarantee that 'Brook' won't eat something again with lead in it, the effort was certainly applauded by his many volunteers, and by New Jersey American Water.
"For me this is a great thing," said Environmental Officer Gary Matthews. Reflecting on an improving ecosystem, he added "This is the best possible outcome. The eagle was rescued, it was healed, it's back in the wild where it belongs."