Raptor release in Quincy

Bald eagle about to be released back into the wild

Eagles have a special place in the hearts of many Tri-States residents.

On Sunday afternoon a group of them gathered to see another one of these majestic birds released back into the wild.

Raptor Rehabilitation Center volunteer Karen Roush had her hands full on Sunday afternoon as she prepared to release a bald eagle named General back into the wild.

General was the unfortunate victim of a trap set for another kind of animal.

"We do get quite a few eagles that have been in a trap and it pretty much destroys the leg," Roush said. "But we were very fortunate with this one, all it did was damage a little soft tissue and so we were able to fix that and release him."

But while in rehab, General had to prove that he was ready to fly free again.

"In the flight complex they also have to be able to find their food," Roush said. "We don't just hand it to them. They need to be able to find it and to grasp it and hold it down and then bring their beak down and be able to tear it up before they're released."

As part of the ceremony, General received a Native American blessing from Leslie Haslem.

She is member of the Standing Bear Council and goes by the name of Raven Woman who sees through the Mists.

She explains the importance of the blessing.

"It helps put a lot of positive energy around him," Haslem said. "It also keeps him in the healing mode that he will be protected. The smudge itself is our cleansing for all Native Americans, we do that for many of our ceremonies. We cleanse ourselves first and it releases the good energies that they need and that we need to bring into ourselves."

After the blessing came the time that everyone had been waiting for, especially General himself.

With a count of 1, 2, 3 Karen Roush threw open her arms and General unfolded his wings and took to the sky.

He flew straight up, turned to the left and disappeared inside a large group of trees near the riverside.

Despite the joy of this moment, Karen Roush also had an important message for Tri-State hunters.

She says that like General, many eagles are severely injured or die from injuries because of traps or flying into fences.

But one of the biggest killers of eagles is lead poisoning from the animals carcasses they feed on.

"The eagles are finding these carcasses that still have the gun pellet in them," Roush said. "They ingest it and then they have lead poisoning. That's a big problem with this. So we're trying to get the word out to people. If you do hunt, make sure you take the whole carcass with you. Don't just leave it lay around."

Roush says that many eagles with lead poisoning do not survive.