MARBLEHEAD – With both arms covered, Ashley Palasics slowly walked toward a hillside in East Harbor State Park with a newly healed bald eagle, with its white head and white tail feathers.
The eagle spent months at Back to the Wild and now it wanted to fly free again.
A small crowd said “1,2,3, be free,” and then Palasics released the eagle. In the blink of an eye, the eagle flew above the nearby treetops and vanished from sight.
“It’s awesome, it’s the most rewarding part of the job,” Palasics said.
Palasics, an educator and animal caretaker at Back to the Wild, said a bald eagle can live up to 40 years in captivity and 20-to-25 years in the wild.
Heather Tuttle, Back to The Wild’s education and rehabilitation coordinator, said the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center found the eagle in April at the state park.
The eagle, which Back to the Wild believed to be six years old, had an injured wing.
Tuttle said the center wasn’t sure how the eagle hurt its wing. She said the bird had soft tissue damage.
“All that healed really well. He can fly beautifully,” Tuttle said.
To get the injured eagle back to full health, Back to the Wild put him in a 150-foot long flight cage where eagles can fly continuously.
The eagle release was done in honor of Mark Boggs, a longtime Back to the Wild supporter and fundraiser and Elyria resident that died in November 2016.
Boggs’ mother, Eythel, stood on a hill at the park and watched the eagle release.
“He just loved nature and he loved bald eagles,” Eythel Boggs said.
Sherri Bacak, Mark Boggs’ girlfriend, said the couple shared a love of nature and bald eagles.
“So this is very symbolic to me, the eagle’s release,” Bacak said.
The Back to the Wild center is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Castalia. It was founded in 1990 and serves as the only wild animal rehabilitation center in Sandusky, Ottawa and Erie Counties.
Tuttle said the center has taken in more than 160 injured bald eagles in…