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Osceola, the Hang Gliding Eagle (AEF)

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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-27-11 08:55 PM
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Osceola, the Hang Gliding Eagle (AEF)
Edited on Mon Jun-27-11 08:55 PM by Ian David
This is a tale about Osceola, a one-winged eagle that returns to the sky through hang gliding. His story begins in 1983 in a field in eastern Arkansas. Two rabbit hunters were crossing this field when they spotted an immature Bald eagle on the ground, trying to become airborne. They noticed his left wing dangled as he ran and concluded that he had been injured. The two quickly surrounded the bird and one of the hunters took his jacket off and tossed it over the eagle. This confused him and allowed the hunter to scoop him up in a protective wrap and gave the man control over the raptors powerful feet.

The hunters promptly called the local game warden and transferred the eagle to him. At the time, I worked at the Memphis Zoo and ran the Raptor Rehab Program. The warden called me, and told of the injured bird and asked if I could meet him near Osceola, Arkansas. He said that the eagle appeared to have a compound fracture and advised me to bring something to wrap the birds wing. I drove for an hour, met the warden and sure enough, the bone was exposed and the wing looked pretty bad. I carefully wrapped the wing and returned to the zoo. The staff vet, Dr. Mike Douglas did a more thorough exam where he x-rayed the birds entire body and checked for parasites. Dr. Douglas decided to pin and wire the broken humerus back together but had doubts that this would help. The eagle had apparently been on the ground about a week before he was found.

Despite three days of work and heavy antibiotic treatment, the wing refused to heal. The eagle, now named Osceola, had become very sick due to all of the toxins in the severely infected limb. A decision was made to amputate the wing in order to save the birds life. He would never fly again, but at least he would be alive.

Osceola quickly rebounded from the surgery and adjusted to the lack of a left wing. I soon began taking him on the education shows I did. Over a year went by and Osceola had become well known in the Memphis and Mid-south area. Even though he wasnt white-headed yet, people were excited to see our National Symbol up close. Most were saddened by what had happened to him and many expressed dismay that he would never fly again. An idea came to me. Perhaps he could fly again with my help. I had been a hang glider pilot for about nine years. Maybe I could construct a harness for him and take him flying with me. Pilots took their dogs with them, why not an eagle?


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