DANDRIDGE (WATE) – August 9 will mark 10 years since the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list, and thanks to the help of two East Tennesseans and the American Eagle Foundation, two more bald eagles are back in the wild.
“It’s something you don’t expect to ever happen, you don’t ever expect to walk out and see an eagle in your backyard,” said Kim Osborne.
That’s exactly what Osborne found on May 6 in the backyard of her Sevierville home.
“Eventually we were able to get in touch with the American Eagle Foundation so they’ve been saving our eagle since that time,” Osborne said.
Little did she know, less than two months earlier, Patrick Wade of Knoxville found a bald eagle in his backyard as well.
“I saw the bird and I was like, wait a minute. No way,” said Wade, who took matters into his own hands and brought the bird to UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine. the same place Osborne’s eagle would later end up too.
“It was like an adrenaline rush kind of. I flew helicopters in Mosul, Iraq, for about nine months, and you kind of get the same adrenaline rush when you get into a little bit of activity,” said Wade. “So I kind of got that rush and I was like, man, I got to get this guy some help.”
Both Wade and Osborne followed their eagles’ journey to recovery each step of the way, calling often and even stopping by to visit, all leading up to Monday’s eagle release over Douglas Lake. The date was pushed back until Wade could make it home from training in Indiana.
“It’s awesome. It’s an incredible feeling,” said Wade.
After spending 28 years in the Army National Guard it was a proud moment for Wade to watch a symbol of the country he fights for be set free back into the wild.
“We did band them with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band, so if at any point in the future they should get in trouble or be found again, we can track them to know these were the birds we released today,” said Al Cecere of the American Eagle Foundation.
After the eagles were set free over Douglas Lake one stuck around for a short while, perched on a tree branch looking back at the team of people who came together to bring it back to health.
“We’re proud to have it for over 230 years, this symbol of our nation,” says Cecere.
The American Eagle Foundation says both birds had an easy recovery at the organization’s rehab facility where they were able to build up enough muscle and strength back before Monday’s flight.
For more information on the American Eagle Foundation or how they can help if you ever come across an injured eagle, click here.