West Nile Eagles Thrive
Scientists track two birds released near Prairie du Sac
By Rick LaFrombois
Wausau Daily Herald
January 21, 2004
Two bald eagles that recovered from the West Nile virus at a rehabilitation center in Antigo were released this weekend in Prairie du Sac and appear to be doing well, wildlife biologists report.
One of the eagles immediately took off for Spring Green, about 21 miles southwest of Prairie du Sac, and has roosted there with about 90 eagles, while the other has taken to exploring southern Wisconsin during the day and returning to roost near Prairie du Sac at night. A third eagle remained in captivity after it broke its transmitter before it was released.
Biologists are tracking the eagles with satellite and radio signals to determine the long-term effect of the West Nile virus on their ability to survive in the wild.
The research may indicate how humans might react to West Nile over time.
The sick eagles were brought to the Raptor Education Group in Antigo this past year and are among the first birds known to recover from the seasonal infection transmitted by mosquitoes.
The eagles were released by Marge Gibson, executive director of the wildlife rehabilitation group, during Prairie du Sacs annual Bald Eagle Watching Days.
Prairie du Sac about 25 miles northwest of Madison and 150 miles south of Wausau contains the states largest concentration of eagles because of the flowing waters of the Wisconsin River and the areas abundance of fish, the favorite food of eagles.
On Sunday, hundreds of bundled-up spectators with binoculars and cameras watched the eagles hunt for food.
Since then, Gibson and graduate student Nick Derene have been glued to their computers, viewing the latest satellite e-mail updates on the eagles flight patterns.
One of the eagles a 4-year-old male categorized as a subadult, which is sort of like a teenager flew south to Devils Lake near Baraboo on Sunday and then on toward Madison.
I think he must have been so happy to feel that wind in his face again, and he just flew and flew, Gibson said.
The eagle returned Sunday to roost near the Black Hawk dam and again took to exploring the Madison area Tuesday.
Mentally, we hope hes remembering things that he needs to do as an eagle to survive in the wild, Gibson said.