An immature bald eagle recovered last fall with a shotgun wound was released back to the wild Saturday at Starved Rock.
The female bird named Peace was set free by members of Hoo Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center in Durand.
Hundreds of people gathered at the south shore of the Illinois River while rehabilitators and photographers gathered with the bird across the river on Plum Island. The scene mimicked a release of two rehabilitated bald eagles Nov. 12 at the island.
Bernice Wienke drove Saturday from Belvidere to see it.
“I’m a bird watcher. I was up there watching birds,” she said, pointing to the state park visitor center. “But I also came down to see the eagle. I can’t wait to go see the pelicans. I drove all the way down here just to see them.”
The eagle release was part of Starved Rock’s new weekend event, Pelican Days.
Chris and Cressy Powers and their son Nate of Chicago came to hike and got a bonus.
“We came down to see the park and we were surprised by the release,” Chris Powers said. “We never came down here before.”
Kim and Jerry Pohl of Mendota joined the crowd at the floodwall to see the eagle freed.
“When we heard about this two weeks ago we couldn’t wait,” Kim Pohl said. “This is a big deal.”
Karen and Steven Herdklotz and their associates from the rehab center delivered the bird by boat to the island. They carried Peace in a crate. They waved to the crowd, opened the crate and the eagle flew to a nearby tree, perched for several minutes and flew to another nearby tall tree on the island.
“Ooh, that’s so cool,” Pam Pohl said.
Jerry Pohl said the bird is rediscovering a new world.
“I don’t know why anybody would want to shoot something like that,” he said.
The bird was found with a broken wing and captured Oct. 30 near Hennepin by state conservation officer Phil Wire. It was nursed by Robert Harms of Countryside Animal Clinic in Streator and Hoo Haven. The bird still has eight pellets in one wing.
Wienke shot photos of the bird and enjoyed it through her binoculars.
“It was the most awesome thing to see,” she said. “She was just gorgeous and beautiful.”
Hoo Haven brought other rehabilitated birds that cannot be released because of injuries. Marshmallow, a white pelican with only 1½ wings, made an appearance at Starved Rock Lodge.
Who shot peace?
A reward of up to $2,500 is offered for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for shooting the eagle.
Those with information can call the Department of Natural Resources hotline at (877) 236-7529, state police at (815) 224-1171 or Bureau-Putnam County Crime Stoppers at (815) 925-7412.