Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Recovered Bald Eagle Released Back to Nature at SML State Park

Jim Gerhart, Friends of SML State Park

 On Friday, 10/16, the young bald eagle believed to have fallen from its nest near Westlake golf course was released back to nature.  About 100 people, some travelling from Virginia Beach, witnessed the event.  The bird had been recovering at The Wildlife Center of Virginia since mid-June.  Ed Clark, President of the organization, was on hand to supervise the release.  Sabrina Garvin, Executive Director of Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center who originally recovered the bird, had the privilege of releasing the bird into the wild.

Clark said the bird is fully recovered and has all the skills, stamina and energy to survive.  “The bird’s hunting instincts are hard wired and is ready to hunt for food,” The bird weighs about 8 pounds and is fully grown according to Clark.  He said it will take about four years before the bird changes to the recognizable appearance of a white head and tail with gray feathers.  The bird’s actions after release are unpredictable.  It could stay in the lake area for the winter or immediately fly 40 miles in any direction.

Clark said that the bird’s biggest challenge is to avoid getting lead poisoning from eating animal remains left by hunters.  A piece of lead the size of a grain of rice is enough to kill the eagle.  Clark said there is an easy solution to this problem.  If hunters would switch to copper bullets, the problem would disappear.  For more information on this topic, there is an article posted on his web site,  By going to the web site you can also follow the movements of the newly released eagle, #15-1261.


 A young bald eagle believed to have fallen from its nest was released back to nature at the park.