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Mooseheart eaglets heading back to the wild

The Mooseheart bald eaglets are seen their temporary outdoor enclosure Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife RehabilitatiJune 6. The pair have developed

The Mooseheart bald eaglets are seen in their temporary outdoor enclosure at the Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation on June 6. The pair have developed enough that their release is being planned. | Courtesy~Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilita

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Updated: December 22, 2011 1:34AM

The two Mooseheart eaglets cared for in captivity will be released back into the wild next month on the Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary across from Starved Rock State Park in the Illinois River.

“This will be an amazing opportunity for people to see,” said Dawn Keller, executive director and founder of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

An event has been planned to celebrate the release of the young bald eagles from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 12. A minimum $10 per person donation is being requested to help defray the cost of raising the eaglets and building their flight chamber.

Tom Clay, exec director of the Illinois Audubon Society, said this is the first eagle release since the nonprofit organization acquired Plum Island in 2004.

“This is a perfect over-wintering eagle sanctuary for their release — eagles lounge and feed here,” Clay said. “The bald eagle is a tremendous North American conservation success story.”

Wildlife experts rescued the two eaglets at the base of a pine tree on the Mooseheart campus, after their nest tumbled 85 feet in a wind storm over the Memorial Day weekend. The wildlife crews made a 5-by-5-foot fabricated nest of stainless steel conduit and vinyl cloth, and hoisted it 65 feet into the tree and secured it with braided steel cable.

But after a well-being check a couple of days later, the eaglets, just 7 weeks old, had dramatically lost weight and one in particular was in a weakened condition, unable to stand on its claws. The adult eagles were spotted nearby, but apparently had neglected their young.

The eaglets were taken to the Barrington-based wildlife rehabilitation facility, where they have been nurtured back to health. Keller said they have grown to the “juvenile” stage and are healthy.

“They are flying beautifully and very strong,” Keller said.

The juveniles will join the hundreds of bald eagles that flock to the 45-acre island during the winter to rest and feed at the nearby lock and dam. Keller said they consulted with wildlife experts and the Starved Rock State Park area was selected because the juveniles would not have to migrate.

The public will meet at the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center in Utica and watch the release of the eaglets from a location across from the island.

“The island has great habitat, beautiful trees and a sandy beach where we will release the birds that is directly across from the river wall where people will have a nice view,” Keller said.

Keller said they are investigating the feasibility of equipping one of the juveniles with a wildlife telemetry unit that would allow them to track its location. “We have a lot of things to work through to have that happen,” Keller said.

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