Strong and Free: Big Bertha Flies Again
April 29, 2004
Big Bertha, a bald eagle that suffered a hair-line fracture to her left wing after striking a powerline in February, was released back into the wild near Princeton, Kentucky on Saturday, April 24, 2004. Her successful recovery involved the cooperative efforts of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Murray State University’s Breaditt Veterinary Center, Louisville, and Kentucky raptor rehabilitator Eileen Wicker and her staff at the Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky. In addition to the wing fracture, Big Bertha was successfully cured of Asper, a disease or fungus in the air sacs of her lungs.
When Big Bertha was removed from her cage at 11:30 a.m.after a four hour drive from the rehabilitation center, she flew beautifully across the field where she had beeninitially rescued by Kentucky Conservation Officer Sgt. Ron Haywood, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Gene Moore, City of Princeton Animal Control Officer Kristen Watson, and Jerry Farless who reported the injured bird in February. After flying approximately 800 yards, she rested until about 1 p.m. and then took flight again, circling the area at approximately 200to 300 feet. Big Bertha was last seen flying toward the U.S. Forest Service’s Land Between the Lakes (LBL) where several known bald eagle nests are located. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s LBL was a pioneer site for the re-introduction of endangered bald eagles into the Southeastern United States through the technique of “hacking” which uses man-made nests and feeding disguised as wild parenting to raise and release captive bred eagle chicks in a natural manner. Big Bertha may have been a descendant of those hacked birds.
Twenty three people attended the ceremony to release Big Bertha and to honor the late Marlys Bulander, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee who dedicated 36 years to educating the public and rehabilitators about proper care for injured birds. Mrs. Bulander worked in the Fort Snelling, Minnesota (Great Lakes – Big Rivers Region) Migratory Bird Permit Office and recently lost a two-year battle with cancer.
“Today, Big Bertha
was majestic and strong in flight, a true symbol of our great Nation”
said Gene Moore, Special Agent for the Service’s Office of Law
Enforcement in western Kentucky. “Big Bertha’s release
was a success that would have pleased Marlys, who dedicated her life
and career to helping birds, especially raptors of all types.”
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345