Bramble Park Zoo releases rehabilitated bald eagle with ceremony

Published: Aug. 15, 2017 at 5:52 PM CDT
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The Bramble Park Zoo took in a bald eagle that was shot with lead pellets back in June, but were able to release her today with a ceremony. KSFY stopped by the eagle release at the Dakota Sioux Casino & Hotel to learn more about her journey.

The eagle was found on Law Creek National Wildlife Refuge near the Badlands of South Dakota. There wasn't anyone there that could handle her condition, so she was brought over to the Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown.

"Once we got her here, we did some X-Rays and we noticed she was full of pellets. So, she was shot and one pellet did fracture her ulna on her right ring which is why she couldn't fly," Bramble Park Zoo Zookeeper and Head of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Program John Gilman said.

Fifteen pellets were found in the eagle's body, but she was able to get released today because the locations of the pellets weren't going to harm her in the long run. She's also very strong and healthy!

Having the ability to release the eagle today is important to the Dakotah people and brings some peace of mind to tribe members.

The ceremony welcomed visitors from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe and Watertown community members to witness this unique opportunity.

"That's important to us as a tribe. We want to be good partners with local communities and it was real admirable and a humane thing to do," Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Flute said. "It was very honorable and on behalf of the tribe, we're very thankful to the Bramble Park Zoo and the local communities that participated in this event."

The eagle that was released doesn't have a name, but she's the inspiration for a new machine that was recently purchased by the zoo.

"The machine is used to gather blood samples from birds of prey that are injured to see what kind of lead levels they have. We don't have that data right now, so we're hoping to gain some knowledge and with this machine we should be able to test out all birds of prey if we have to," Bramble Park Zoo Director Dan Miller said.

The zoo is able to rehabilitate birds through a permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Staff members tend to work a lot with raptors and ducklings in the area.