A bald eagle is back in the wild, marking the end of a three-month recovery that started with a former state senator.
"In my lifetime, I remember when the American bald eagle was assumed to be extinct," said former TN state senator Doug Jackson. "It's made a tremendous comeback. To see it take off, it flew literally out of sight. It flew so high. It was wonderful."
A crowd on the ground near Pegram strained to see a released bald eagle disappear into the sky Wednesday afternoon.
"It's always a fabulous feeling when we do releases," said Bettina Bowers Schwan of Walden's Puddle. "I guess he was just making sure that he wasn't confined anymore, and he just took off and never looked back."
Jackson said he wasn't always so sure he'd get to see this eagle soar.
"I can't describe to you how sick that eagle was," said Jackson. "I really questioned if it would live with the best of care."
Three months ago, Jackson and his brother were kayaking near Craggie Hope Road when they came across a three-year-old eagle flapping in the water.
"It was distressing to see a bald eagle like that, and you know we're having a great time kayaking this river, but now we have a problem," said Jackson. "Our problem is what to do with this eagle."
With one bar of service, Jackson called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency who brought the eagle to Walden's Puddle for three months of recovery.
"Feathers were in bad shape," said Schwan. "He was skinny and just puny. It took about a month for him to self-feed. We had to feed him for about a month, and that wasn't fun for anybody, him or us. We started working on building his strength up to get him in the condition he is today."
After checking for pneumonia and treatment for a fungal lung infection, the eagle was let out of the cage and into the sky.
"Exhilarating," said Jackson. "I couldn't be happier to see that eagle released. If those people hadn't been there, we would've had one less eagle in the United States of America that day."
This bald eagle did not have that well-known white head. Officials with Walden's Puddle said this eagle is only three-years-old. Eagles only get that white head when they reach four or five. Jackson said he still immediately recognized the eagle as our nation's bird.
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