By Andre Malok- March 27, 2016 (NJ.com)
MONTCLAIR — In a blink of an eye, a rehabilitated golden eagle takes flight and disappears into the trees.
With the help of staff and volunteers from Toms River Avian Care and the Raptor Trust in Millington, a rare visitor to New Jersey is back in the wild and likely heading north toward Canada.
It was February when this golden eagle was found in a snare trap by a hunter in South Jersey. The bird became unconscious as it struggled to free itself, tightening the wire around its neck. The hunter removed the snare from the bird and brought it to Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township. It was moved to Toms River Avian Care and then later treated at the Raptor Trust in Millington.
The eagle remained at the Trust for about five weeks until it was given a clean bill of health and cleared for release. The bird was brought to the Montclair Hawk Watch, a joint project of New Jersey Audubon and Montclair Bird Club located at the first Watchung Mountain in Montclair.
“It can find its way along the ridges and up the Hudson River from here,” according to Chris Soucy, director of the Raptor Trust. “Its got a good shot to get to where it needs to go.”
Following a series of measurements and blood work, the eagle was fitted with a GPS transmitter — the first time ever for this bird species in New Jersey. With the transmitter, biologists can track the bird and learn more about where it goes and how it moves.
“This bird, in particular, has the newest duty cycles, said Michael Lanzone, CEO of Cellular Tracking Technologies. “So we actually know the bird’s behavior now too. We’ll know, is it hunting, is it perched, is it preening. Exactly what it’s doing and when.”
With a count of 1 – 2 – 3, the eagle was hoisted into the air and on its way.
“It’s a good day to release any bird,” said Chris Soucy, Director of the Raptor Trust. “But when you can release an endangered species or an uncommon species like this golden eagle, it’s really pretty touching.”