Golden eagle leaves Craig, Steamboat area for Nebraska | SteamboatToday.com
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Golden eagle leaves Craig, Steamboat area for Nebraska

Tracy Bye, who operates Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation in Steamboat Springs, releases a golden eagle, named Alita, at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig on July 7. The bird has a special transmitter attached to it that has allowed biologist to track the bird's movements the past 13 days. Alita is now near Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Less than two weeks after being released, Alita, a golden eagle that was hit by a car near the Colorado-Wyoming border in August 2019, is now taking advantage of her second chance at life and spreading her wings.

“I just love getting those little reports every few days,” said Tracy Bye. who runs the Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Steamboat Springs, where Alita was brought shortly after being discovered along the road last year. “It’s just so cool.”

After Alita arrived at Born Free, Bye picked up the phone and called the Birds of Prey Foundation in Broomfield, who took the golden eagle into its care. Alita spent 11 months there recovering from a head injury. This July, Bye made the drive to Broomfield to pick the bird up and worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials to release the bird near Craig.

Alita spent the first couple of days near where she was released before traveling north of Craig where she made several stops July 13 to 15. The eagle roosted just northwest of Steamboat Springs on July 17 before making a 100-mile journey the next day stopping just north of Fort Collins near the Colorado-Wyoming border. The following day, the eagle traveled 130 miles through southeastern Wyoming and into western Nebraska roosting near Scottsbluff.

“It’s not terribly unusual,” said Robert Murphy with Eagle Environmental, who was contracted by U.S. Game and Wildlife to attach a transmitter to track Alita as part of a study. “We don’t know her history. I mean when a bird is migrating, sometimes, they get the right kind of winds aloft and then they just pick up some warm air when it starts rising in the morning, and they get the lift and pick up the jet stream and then pretty much cruise all day. Sometimes, they can make 150 to 175 miles on a good day.”

Tracking Alita’s journey has been a rare opportunity for Bye, who has rehabilitated several golden and bald eagles as part of her efforts at Born Free. Alita is the first bird she has released that was fitted with a transmitter.

“It’s been really interesting to see where she is headed,” Bye said. “But to go to Scottsbluff, I’m like, ‘Really? It’s so much prettier here.’”

Bye is excited by the eagle’s progress since Alita was released the Tuesday after the Fourth of July. The bird struggled on its first two release attempts before finally making it to a tall tree on the banks of the Yampa River.

Murphy wasn’t sure where Alita might ultimately end up.

“This isn’t a normal golden eagle. It has been in rehabilitation for months, and we just don’t know how they behave necessarily in that early post-release period,” Murphy said. “I just don’t know what to expect.”

This map shows the movements of the golden eagle, Alita following her release on July 7 at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig.
Map courtsey of Robert Murphy/Eagle Environmental, Inc.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.


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