A rehabilitated bald eagle finally spread its wings again as it glided over the icy waters of Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space. It was a brisk and chilly Saturday afternoon, and about 200 people gathered to witness the release of a bald eagle and its flight back into the wild.
In December 2003, the Colorado Division of Wildlife found the eagle near the Platte River with a fractured right wing. The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program treated the bird and aided in its long travel back to flight.
Doctors thought the bird would not likely fly again, but as its cage opened the eagle burst out and energetically took flight as the excited crowd cheered on.
Before the eagle was released, Judy Scherpelz, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, spoke to the crowd about the bald eagle's journey and how excited she is for it to take flight for a second time in its life.
"We're so excited for this bird to take its second chance at freedom," Scherpelz said. "We all will taste a little bit of freedom in our hearts as we watch this bird take flight."
Members of the crowd who witnessed the eagle soar off into the trees of the reservoir were very happy for the recovered bird.
"This is just a wonderful day," said Aleitta Remillard, a resident of Estes Park. "It touches a person."
Other onlookers were just as excited.
"This is fabulous, it was just wow," said Jean Sutherland, a local community member. "What a beautiful thing to see."
For Travis Rollins, the park manager of Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space, it was a phenomenal day.
"It's so exciting that the residents of Larimer County can enjoy their newest open space. It's just awesome," Rollins said.
Rollins also was pleased by the turnout, which he did not think would be so large.
The Rocky Mountain Program, 300 W. Drake Road, is a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to injured birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and owls and also works on educating the public about the environment. The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU provides the medical care for the injured animals.
After witnessing the bird soar off, Scherpelz reflected on the day and the crowd that showed up.
"It's been so exciting both in terms of all the people who came and for the bird," Scherpelz said. "It's really cool having so many people here and really great knowing that people care."