WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WVEC) -- A bald eagle injured back in September was released back into the wild on Tuesday.
Dozens of people showed up to York River State Park to watch the bird take flight.
“It’s just exciting to see a bird rescued and saved, especially a bald eagle,” Patty Procopi said.
Two months ago wildlife rehabilitator Tommy White got a call about an eagle found injured in someone's backyard in Poquoson.
“He had some wing damage which means he could have gotten hit by a car. There were puncture wounds on his breast area that indicated it was an eagle fight, and they generally fight pretty rough to the death sometimes,” he said.
White took the bird to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro for treatment.
“The bird had multiple injuries. Fortunately, none of those was life-threatening.” President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia Ed Clark said.
According to Clark, 50 bald eagles in Virginia have been taken to the Wildlife Center for injuries this year.
“Statewide this has been a bad year for eagles at the Wildlife Center,” Clark said.
The eagle population continues to grow in the state, but more and more are succumbing to injuries that are entirely preventable.
“Of the 50 eagles we have admitted so far this year, 70 percent have come in with lead poisoning. They’re getting that from eating animals that have been shot and ingesting tiny shards of bullet and shotgun pellet fragments,” Clark said.
With hunting season just now beginning, Clark said the problem is only going to get worse, and the key to prevention is education.
“Our message to hunters is, ‘Make the switch to non-lead ammunition. It's available. And keep in mind that your bullet doesn’t stop killing just because it stops moving.”
Clark said the Wildlife Center of Virginia is currently working with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to help spread that message.