MARQUETTE — The Chocolay Raptor Center released a bald eagle back into the wild this afternoon in Marquette, and a large crowd gathered to witness the event. The female bald eagle, which is estimated to be around a year old, could not fly when it was first rescued by the DNR and transferred to the Raptor Center back in December.

The eagle rehabbed at the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehab Center near Rhinelander, Wisconsin for several weeks before being released today in front of a crowd of people eager, and happy to see it fly away.

“It’s always a chill up the spine when you release one of these magnificent birds, particularly when it’s an eagle or a snowy owl that would have died otherwise,” said Jerry Maynard, the co-founder and president of the Chocolay Raptor Center. “And we were instrumental in saving it, and being able to release it back into the wild where it belongs. So it was a great thrill.”

Blood tests showed that the eagle was suffering from lead poisoning which it got from eating a deer that had been shot by a hunter and was not retrieved, which is the number one way that raptors get lead poisoning.

“There was a multi–year, multi–state study of lead poisoning in raptors and other predators, and it showed that hunting lead ammo is the most common source of lead poisoning in raptors,” Maynard said. “To all my hunting friends, get the lead out. There are a lot of good alternatives that aren’t very much more expensive, and I always say to my friends, ‘if you’re a good shot you only need one bullet anyways.’ So the expense can’t be an excuse.”

It was estimated that over 200 people were in attendance to see the eagle get released today, and everyone wishes it good luck now that it’s back in the wild.