PHOENIX (AP) — A bald eagle in Arizona has been released into the wild four months after undergoing surgery for a shattered leg bone.
The 3-year-old eagle was released recently at Horseshoe Reservoir northeast of Phoenix, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said.
The bird was found in February on the ground at a dairy farm in Queen Creek. The bird would have likely died if wildlife officials did not help it, the department said.
A medical team from the rehabilitation center Liberty Wildlife did surgery on the bird, using a metal rod and screws to repair the damaged leg.
"This eagle now has another shot at survival, and in a couple of years, when it becomes of breeding age, it may go on to bolster Arizona's growing bald eagle population," raptor biologist Kyle McCarty said. "For us, every eagle counts."
Wildlife officials were familiar with this eagle. They had outfitted the raptor's legs with numbered metal bands when it was nesting along the Verde River in 2016.
This time they fitted the bird with a GPS transmitter to track its movements, giving biologists the chance to study older birds, McCarty said. The bird was released June 24.
"A 3-year-old bird will potentially be able to tell us a lot about which areas are important for pre-breeding eagles," McCarty said. "We'll also be afforded the chance to learn about their breeding habitat should the bird and transmitter survive another year or two."
The transmitter showed the eagle had flown back to the Bartlett Lake area where it hatched.
"As an agency, we strive to conserve and protect all of the state's wildlife, but participating in something like this ahead of the Fourth of July is something special," McCarty said.
Officials estimate that 75 adult breeding pairs of bald eagles live in Arizona. The state recorded 11 pairs in 1978.