MONTICELLO — The prophet Isaiah wrote that those who hope in the Lord “will soar on wings like eagles.”
A vivid illustration of what that looks like was witnessed on Friday by Camp Corral campers in Allerton Park’s Rolling Meadows, as Midas the golden eagle was released into freedom.
“Probably, more than likely, he’s going to land and he’s going to get his bearings. He’s confused right now with what’s happening,” said Jacques Nuzzo, program director at the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur.
Instead, after Nuzzo and Executive Director Jane Seitz took off Midas’ hood and released his legs, Midas flew in a high arc over the field, coasted briefly and made a beeline for the woods, where the blue jays promptly set off the alarm that a very large stranger was among them.
Midas was found in the fall in Sadorus by John Flavin, who made several phone calls before he found the Wildlife Clinic at the University of Illinois.
“His wing was broken, and he obviously couldn’t fly,” said Flavin, who brought son Cade along to watch the release.
Catching him wasn’t easy, said the university’s Dr. Ken Welle, because injury or no injury, he’s still an eagle and he was prepared to do battle.
At the Wildlife Clinic, said veterinary student Sarah Sylla, they discovered his radius was broken, splinted it and put him in a cage to recover while they figured out where to send him when he healed. He bit Sylla once, and sometimes tried to grab at his caretakers with his lethal talons. An eagle can take your hand off if he wants to, she said.
“At first, he wouldn’t eat for us,” Sylla said. “He was kind of scary, but he is definitely the coolest patient I’ve ever had.”
Male golden eagles are smaller than females, and Midas is mature but still young, said Christine Dakis, another veterinary student.
When he was well enough, the Illinois Raptor Center took over, keeping Midas out of public view and working to build up his strength.
In the past few weeks, Nuzzo has been taking him out for tethered test flights, and one concern Friday was that Midas would think he was tethered and wouldn’t try to go farther than he was used to flying on his practice runs. If that had happened, Nuzzo said, he would have gone to Midas and nudged him into taking off again.
That proved unnecessary.
When rescuing a wild animal, Nuzzo said, the best thing to do is get the animal out of danger and replace it in the same path it was headed before you came along. The meadow at Allerton was chosen because it’s the same area where Midas was found, and he was released facing the same direction he was going before he was hurt.
“It’s up to him to figure out life from here,” Nuzzo said. “We just gave him a second chance.”