When Lori Paras arrived at the edge of the Río Pueblo gorge Sunday morning (April 28), the golden eagle in her lap was as calm as a docile kitten. After being nursed back to health, the eagle was re-released into the wild by American Indian actor Wes Studi in front of a crowd of dozens of onlookers.
Just before the release, the eagle and Studi posed one last time for the cameras. Studi then raised his arms and the eagle began flapping its wings as it dropped below the edge of the gorge. Seconds later, the bird was gaining altitude to the applause of the eager crowd.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” said Paras, who spent weeks rewrapping bandages on the eagle’s wounded feet, as she watched the eagle soaring at the far end of the gorge.
To see a video of the release, find this story at taosnews.com.
The eagle, nicknamed James Dean, was rehabilitated at the Santa Fe Raptor Center after running into a power line near White Sands last September.
Sunday’s event was meant to attract attention to the Raptor Center, a nonprofit that cares for injured birds until they’re healthy enough to return to the wild. According to the organization’s most recent tax filing, the center’s expenses outpaced its revenue from donations by $8,500. Paras said she was averaging two to three new birds coming in to the center each week, and she hoped to attract new donors to keep up with the volume.
Ellen Regan of San Cristóbal was among those who came to watch the release Sunday. “It just brightens my soul,” Regan said when asked what she thought of the event.
Studi, known for his roles in “Avatar,” “Dances with Wolves” and “Last of the Mohicans,” said the eagle weighed about as much as a bag of sugar. He said he was surprised by how gracefully it took off from his hands.
Studi, who now lives just outside Santa Fe, said he agreed to release the eagle to help the Raptor Center’s cause.
Paras said the eagle released Sunday was 2 years old and able to hunt on its own. Paras said the release location was chosen because it’s already a proven habitat for other eagles.
“There are eagles in this area and they’re nesting, but he’s a juvenile so they won’t chase him away,” Paras said.
Before it was let go, the eagle was outfitted with a tracking device that will allow Paras and others to follow its movements. Paras said knowing that the eagle is moving and doing well gives her peace of mind, but she also worries that something may happen, something she might prefer not to know about.
“We’ll hope for the best,” she said.