More than 100 onlookers gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Prairie du Sac on a sunny January afternoon, vying for spots with the best view of five white crates.
They cheered as handlers opened each of the enclosures, setting free five bald eagles, which took off soaring over the Wisconsin River.
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A nonprofit called Raptor Education Group, Inc. had been overseeing the birds since last summer at a rehabilitation center in Antigo.
There, the eaglets had minimal contact with people.
“We have a couple foster eagles that are permanent residents that raised all of our babies for us,” said the group’s assistant director Audrey Gossett. “And they learn from them how to behave and what the proper mannerisms and all that sort of thing are for a wild bald eagle, so that we don’t imprint them on humans.”
Each year, the Raptor Education Group rehabilitates between 800 and 1,000 injured or orphaned wild birds that are native to Wisconsin, Gossett said.
About 100 of those birds are eagles, according to a Facebook post.
The Raptor Education Group typically releases bald eagles each winter.
That’s when the wild birds fly down to southern Wisconsin from Canada and more northerly parts of the U.S. in search of fish.
“Eagles will typically migrate or congregate down in this area because of the open water,” Gossett said. “There’s a great food source.”
The federal government listed bald eagles as endangered until 2007, but their numbers have since rebounded in Wisconsin and across the country.
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