4 Enumclaw eagles released back into the wild

4 Enumclaw eagles released back into the wild
ENUMCLAW, Wash. -- It's majestic, strong and graceful. The American Bald Eagle is a living symbol of our freedoms.

Imagine the heartache - when a total of six eagles were found near death in the Enumclaw Valley.

Laura Olender found two of the eagles, “I didn't know, I thought it would die.”

When she thought one had passed away in her lap on the way to the vet, Olender reached down to resuscitate it.

"I picked him up and his head just flopped and he didn't appear to be alive at all," she said. "So I just opened up his beak and blew in his beak short breaths and he came back, his tongue started to move and his eye started to flicker."

How did they get to be so sick? They ate from a poisoned horse.

A local farmer had to put down a horse and did it legally with barbiturates, but then failed to properly bury it. The eagles then ate the poisoned meat.

If they hadn't been found, Veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee says, "It's very likely they would have died because they were unable to defend themselves."

Dr. Huckabee said the secondary poison heavily sedated the eagles to the point that they just slept for two days.

He and the staff at PAWS in Lynnwood carefully cared for the eagles and after several days, four were finally ready to return to the wild.

Officer Bruce Richards with the Fish and Wildlife Department picked up the birds in Lynnwood and drove them to the Enumclaw Valley – to within a half mile of where they were all found.

A small crowd gathered at the Huizenga farm to witness the historic day. Richards told them that is truly is a unique experience, that the release of four eagles at once is the first time it’s been done that he knew of in his 35 year career with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officer Richards asked everyone to stay very quiet, so as not to scare the eagles. One by one, volunteers helped carry the crates containing the birds to the middle of a field. Richards then gave the go ahead for Dorothy and Gil Huizenga to open the cages and let the eagles soar.

Later, Huizenga said, "We do see the eagles around here from time to time and really enjoy it, but you know we felt bad it had to happen like this. It is very touching."

As the second eagle released flew away, Richards told the crowd, "That's a sub adult. That means he's about 4 years old - you can see the coloration on the head."

An eagle's white head and tail don't fully develop until about age 5. That's when they're adults.

Kianna - not-yet-two – expressed her excitement at seeing the eagles released, repeating, “Eagle, eagle. Fly away!” while also raising her hands in the air, as if to fly herself.

Kellen Kranc, another excited kid exclaimed, "That was cool!"

When he first handled the sick eagles, Richards said he wasn't sure they'd make it.

Richards said, "If you saw the condition of them deteriorate."

He was just as thrilled as the rest of the crowd to see them soar.

"These are the memories I talk about in sixth grade classes and talks," Richards said. "These are the memories that come back. The good memories of my job."

So ecstatic to see them back where they belong, Laura Olender proclaimed, "They're part of the valley!"

A fifth eagle didn't survive the poison, and a sixth remained at PAWS for treatment of a broken leg that veterinarians figure it suffered before it ate the poison.