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Bald eagle on the mend thanks to San Jacinto County animal rescue

Chron logo Chron 12/28/2017 By Jacob McAdams, jmcadams@hcnonline.com

An injured bald eagle, recuperating under the care of San Jacinto County wildlife rescuer Bill Heyde, will soon be released into the wild if all goes as planned.

The eagle, which Heyde named Hunter, was found off of US 59 north of Shepherd, Texas, on Dec. 21 by Robert Gibler. The following day, Gibler made arrangements to place the eagle in Heyde's care.

Heyde suspects that Hunter may have been injured after being struck by a vehicle, though he is not certain what led to his injuries.

According to Heyde, the bird appeared to be suffering from a slight concussion, though otherwise in good shape.

"He was acting a little bit sleepy," said Heyde.

Hunter refused to eat at the beginning of his recovery, which Heyde says confirms his diagnosis of a concussion. Hunter has since started eating.

"Saturday morning he ate half of a bunny," said Heyde. "He's been eating well ever since."

Hunter the bald eagle stands at 29 inches tall and a wing span of six-and-a-half feet. As a young adult, he is close to his full size. Bald eagles became the national symbol for the United States on June 20, 1782. © Jacob McAdams Hunter the bald eagle stands at 29 inches tall and a wing span of six-and-a-half feet. As a young adult, he is close to his full size. Bald eagles became the national symbol for the United States on June 20, 1782.

Heyde says Hunter is a male eagle, standing 29 inches tall with a six-and-a-half-foot wing span. He estimates Hunter is approximately 3 years old.

Bill Heyde rescued this bald eagle, which was found on US 59 near Shepherd, Texas, on Dec. 21. © Jacob McAdams Bill Heyde rescued this bald eagle, which was found on US 59 near Shepherd, Texas, on Dec. 21.

"Males are always smaller than females," said Heyde.

According to Heyde, bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list. However, they are still vulnerable to the indirect actions of careless hunters using lead shots on shotguns.

Bill Heyde rescued this bald eagle, which was found on US 59 near Shepherd, Texas, on Dec. 21. © Jacob McAdams Bill Heyde rescued this bald eagle, which was found on US 59 near Shepherd, Texas, on Dec. 21.

Lead shots are not a problem should a hunter kill its target, but if a hunter's prey escapes it can find itself endangering the local wildlife.

"The ones that aren't [killed] are left out there for other animals to eat," said Heyde. "In increasing numbers they are dying from lead poisoning."

Heyde says hunters should opt for a non-lead shot as there is little difference between the ammunition types.

Bald eagles became the national symbol of the United States on June 20, 1782, during the Second Continental Congress. Rumors persist that Benjamin Franklin lobbied to have the turkey approved as the national emblem, though there exists no truth to these claims.

In recent years, bald eagles have been spotted in increasing numbers in East Texas during the winter, particularly around Lake Livingston.

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