Bald eagle that hit boat on I-94 is back to health, set free

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MENOMONIE, Wis. (AP/WEAU) -- A bald eagle that was hurt while flying into a boat being pulled on I-94 in Menomonie is back in the wild.

Less than there weeks ago, Scott and Marilyn Kregness were driving their truck over the Red Cedar River. That's when the eagle crashed through the shrink wrap of a boat they were towing.

The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota has since been rehabilitating the eagle back to health. He suffered internal injuries and an eye hemorrhage.

On Wednesday, Raptor Center volunteers brought the eagle back to Menomonie where Scott and Marilyn were invited to release the bird back into its habitat.

Scott recounted what it was like when they first saw the eagle heading toward their truck on I-94.

"We saw the eagle. We'd just cross the Red Cedar River. I thought he was going to actually hit the truck," said Scott. "My wife looked and saw that we had a hole in the shrink wrapping and you know, then it was like okay, I don't see the bird and we continued on."

He said the driver behind him came up next to their vehicle, flashing his lights and waving them down to pullover into the next rest stop.

"He said the bird is still in the boat. We unzipped it and went down one side, went around the back side and there he was between the engines in the back of the boat," said Scott.

He eventually called Patti Stangel, the founder of the Wildlife and Rehabilitation and Release in Colfax.

"The eagle had hit the right spot and thank God he did because he would've been dead otherwise," said Stangel. She said the day of the eagle's accident was bright and sunny. The glare from the shrink wrap may have blinded the bird before he crashed.

Stangel took the eagle back to her rehab center and the next day, brought him to the Raptor Center.

Stangel said she remembers a time when eagles were rare. In the 1980s, she said there were less than 300 bald eagles in Wisconsin. Now in 2014, more than 3000 fly in the state.

She said it was important the eagle was released in Menomonie. As an adult eagle, he could have a mate in the area and is already familiar with his surroundings which is crucial.

The Raptor Center volunteer showed Scott how to hold the eagle and release him and within moments, the bird was back in its home.

"It's a magnificent thing to see and that's your payment for what you do, you know. You put a lot of effort into this to make sure they're healthy and go back to where they need to go," said Stangel.

Scott said it was an experience unlike any other.

"What a fantastic feeling to release him back into the wild," said Scott. "It's just something I've never felt. Just the sheer power of the animal at that point and then he jumped out of your arms and watching him take flight again, what a satisfying feeling."

This also isn't Scott's first time helping an animal. He's a firefighter and the boat he was towing was a rescue boat heading towards a fire department in Minnesota.

"The gentleman that pulled me over sent me a note and said, well the boat has made its first rescue," he said. "And I think they're going to name the boat Eagle One."

When we asked if the eagle had a name, Scott spoke up and said his name is Stanley, named after the make of the boat. He said he hopes Stanley stays off of I-94 for a while.

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A bald eagle that was injured when he flew into a shrink-wrapped boat moving on Interstate 94 in western Wisconsin has been set free.

The adult male flew into the white shrink wrap April 25 as the boat was being towed at about 70 miles an hour near Menomonie.

Scott and Marilyn Kregness, who were driving the truck, saw the bird fly past and noticed the hole in the wrap when looking in the rearview mirror but didn't realize he was inside until another driver alerted them.

The bird was taken to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul for rehabilitation, after an eye hemorrhage and internal injuries.

Scott Kregness released him Wednesday in Menomonie and says it was great feeling to see him fly away.


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