BOYDTON — A small crowd gathered at Palmer Point Park on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to watch members of the Wild at Heart Wildlife Sanctuary release two juvenile bald eagles into the surrounding Kerr Lake ecosystem.

Protecting and rescuing wildlife in North Carolina has always been a passion for Wild at Heart Executive Director Tonya Weil, who has done everything possible to ensure the young eagles are able to survive at Kerr Lake.

“Every time we put back an eagle, it’s an amazing day,” Weil said. “They are not the easiest of birds to rehabilitate, but the reason we brought them [to Kerr Lake] was because one of them was from here and the other was displaced, so [Saturday] was certainly amazing.”

Weil originally wanted to release the two baby eagles at the end of August, but bad weather and a scheduling conflict with her photographer ultimately led to the event being moved to Saturday.

Although Weil never intended to have the event coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she did not mind turning the day’s festivities into an impromptu tribute to the victims and survivors who continue to struggle after the attacks.

“It’s almost like it was meant to be,” Weil said. “My husband and I are both veterans so [Saturday] was meaningful to us in a lot of ways with it being 20 years since that terrible day. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

The eagle that Wild at Heart rescued from Kerr Lake was emaciated, which Weil believes was attributed to a parasite. Although the female eagle had no significant problems, Weil and her team still had to spend several hundred dollars on preventatives to nurse it back to health.

Weil was unsure if the male eagle was going to survive a bout of avian pox. She said that just about all adult birds have the antibodies to fight off avian pox, but that juveniles are more susceptible to significant health risks from the disease.

With the male eagle close to death when it was found, Wild at Heart treated him three times a day and tube-fed the bird for three weeks before he began eating on his own. Once he became healthy, Weil decided to release the eagle at Kerr Lake alongside the female bird since his place of birth was unknown.

No official names were given to the eagles, and neither one of them were tagged, but Weil is grateful to have given each bird a chance of survival.

“We don’t really name the birds on our level, but the people of the lake named the female Shadow and we called the male Poxer because he had pox,” Weil said. “We have to maintain some level of detachment because most of these animals don’t make it, and that can be hard on some people.”

Once the two eagles were properly released into the woods, Weil and the rest of the Wild at Heart staff gathered the onlookers for an educational event involving live animals that discussed several different facts about them and their habitats.

Weil enjoyed talking with several local residents about the importance of protecting wildlife at Kerr Lake and would not mind revisiting the region again for future releases or other events.

“It all depends on the situation,” Weil said. “If we have some eagles that don’t have a place to go back to, then Kerr Lake will definitely be on our radar. This is a nice place and we’d love to come back here.”

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840