Edgar “Eddie” the Eagle shows his wingspan as he prepares to fly to freedom three weeks to the day after he reportedly shattered a windshield on Hwy. 191. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Remarkable resilience

Edgar “Eddie” the Eagle’s flight to freedom

Reverent whispers of awe were spoken by the crowd gathered to witness something few are lucky to see: the release of a rehabilitated bald eagle back to the wild.

The sun shone brightly as a large crate was removed from a minivan. It was maneuvered to a field and steadied on the snow before the gathered crowd at 320 Ranch. A symbol of American democracy was within: hollow-boned and weighing eight pounds from solid muscle. His giant claws had gently gripped the hand of his rescuer only three weeks before – to the day.

The initial report received by Becky Kean, rehabilitation director at the Montana Raptor Conservation Center, was that Edgar “Eddie” the Eagle shattered a vehicle’s windshield on Hwy. 191. The incident left him disoriented on the side of the road with head trauma and internal injuries from the blunt force. Good Samaritans gathered him up in a sweatshirt and took him to West Yellowstone for assistance.

Many of the humans instrumental in his survival and recovery were there to celebrate his momentous day – including the couple who saved him from the side of the road.

When the crate door was opened, he wasted no time setting off, his six-foot wingspan on full display to the delight of the crowd. His departure proved so quick that many cameras that were focused on him could not find focus in time. Eddie initially appeared to take off for a distant horizon, but he returned and circled around, finding a thermal and ascending higher and higher before heading north through the Gallatin Canyon. He was spotted the following day a mile north, across the river from the Cinnamon Lodge.

Kelly Johnson, a visitor from Missouri described witnessing his release as a spiritual and emotional experience.

320 employee Morgan Crytser described seeing Eddie soar as “magnificent, beautiful, and wonderful.”

“It’s really nice that he kind of hung out for a second,” he said.

As Kean noted, his release could not have gone better – “he did fantastic.”

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