By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
An adult male eagle didn't mind the cold breeze coming off the Mississippi River as he took flight Wednesday after a month's stay at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Quincy.
The eagle was found dazed Dec. 21 along a road in Schuyler County, Mo., suffering from a possible head injury and wounds to both shoulders, said Karen Roush of the raptor center. Staff members don't know whether he hit a power line, flew into a vehicle or was injured in some other way. They focused on treating the injuries instead of figuring out how he got them.
"His wings have been repaired, and we did some rehab with him in the flight complex to make sure he could fly," Roush said. "We also made sure he could find his food, was able to grasp it and tear it apart to eat it."
Drew Kaiser, who operates the Katherine Road Animal Hospital and Quincy Animal Shelter, opened the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in 1996 at the back of his veterinary office at 2522 Locust. It is the only raptor center within 100 miles, and it handles hundreds of injured birds every year.
"We've got some birds that can't be released that we have to farm out to people who have permits" to have them, Kaiser said.
Several eagles from the raptor center will be on display this weekend at Eagle Days and Eagle Watch events in Quincy.
"We get them from Illinois and Missouri and Iowa. They come from all directions," Roush said.
In addition to injured birds, the center takes in young birds that are found by well-meaning people who pick them up. Once the birds have been handled by a human, they will generally be abandoned by their parents.
Raptors are birds of prey. In addition to eagles, the list of raptors in this area includes owls, hawks, kestrels and vultures. Kaiser said the center also cares for aquatic birds, including ducks, geese, swans and pelicans.
At times when too many birds need care, Kaiser and Roush work with the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis.
The Raptor Rehabilitation Center is funded through donations.
"We don't get any money from the government. Private donations are great," Kaiser said.
In addition to Kaiser and Roush, three or four other volunteers care for the birds. Staff members also take birds with them for educational programs at schools, 4-H club meetings and other places.
Logan Tullock, 11, is one of the youngest volunteers and hopes to become a zoologist. His favorite part of working at the raptor center is seeing an owl that he likes. Logan said there also are "some gross" jobs in caring for injured birds.
Roush has worked under Kaiser's supervision for the past two years and has seen some unusual cases.
"Last year we got one snowy owl that was found floating in the river," Roush said.
That owl species usually does not travel this far south. It also beat the odds when someone rescued it as the owl struggled in the water, suffering from from hypothermia.
Roush said eagles and other raptors end up in the water at times when they dive for fish. They might have to swim for a while if they're unable to take off immediately after grabbing a fish.
About 20 people turned out to watch the rehabilitated eagle take flight Wednesday near Lock and Dam 21 south of Quincy.
Kaiser said the raptor's departure was one of the success stories that he and his staff cherish.