Last month, we had the unique privilege of watching a male bald eagle be released back into the wild. It was set free near the creek running alongside our main building, near the same location where this raptor’s ordeal began in February.

Institute Safety Coordinator Shane Engebrecht and Don Higgins, a federally licensed raptor rehabilitator and Petit Jean Mountain resident, facilitated the bird’s capture and release. The rehabilitation was provided by Rodney Paul, founder and director of the Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas. This was the 75th bald eagle that Paul’s facility has released back into its natural habitat in 21 years, and that’s on top of more than 3,000 birds of prey they have rescued during that time.

Rodney Paul

Founder & Director, Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas

“Operating Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is both challenging and costly. Feeding and caring for these magnificent birds requires significant resources, amounting to around $10,000 annually in food costs alone. We rely heavily on donations from generous supporters to continue our mission. With only five facilities in the state, we are the largest and most equipped to handle the demanding task of rehabilitating birds of prey.”

On February 28, 2024, a team discovered two bald eagles locked in a fierce battle in the forest surrounding the Institute campus. Their talons had become entangled due to the intense fight. Higgins and Engebrecht, along with a team of volunteers — which included Institute staff members Andy Rohlman, Marty Allred, and Tim Pearson — carefully separated the birds.

They immediately released the female eagle, which was larger and seemingly unscathed. However, the male eagle was not as fortunate. He had sustained severe injuries to his thigh, resulting in significant arterial bleeding. The team managed to stop the bleeding on-site, but the risk of infection from the talon punctures required further attention. Higgins transported the male eagle to Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas for comprehensive treatment, including antibiotics and a thorough veterinary consultation. The Rehab crew worked tirelessly over the next several weeks to ensure the eagle’s full recovery.

Because time is crucial, it’s important to contact a rehab facility immediately upon finding an injured or orphaned bird of prey. Do not try to pick it up or take it home until you have contacted a professional. In addition to Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas, check out the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or other rehab facilities in your area.

If you would like to support Rodney Paul and his work, donations to the Rehab are gladly accepted. 100% of the money received is used to feed and care for the raptors. Donations can be mailed directly to Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas at 1556 Ridge Road, El Paso, AR 72045. PayPal and all other major credit/debit cards are accepted as well. Learn more on their website or visit their Facebook page!


  1. 1
    Graham G. Hawks on June 5, 2024

    An rare educational moment…I read with interest the article pertaining to the “Injured Bald Eagle Rescued Released at Institute:” What is most fascinating are the facts about Bald Eagle Mating rituals: As part of the female/male mating dance that they perform in the sky is their purposeful locking of talons. It is not from some “fierce battle.” The female and male will deliberately, at relatively high altitude, lock talons and assume a “death spiral” where with talons locked they spin together as they free fall towards the earth. It is speculated that the female initiates this to determine the fitness of a particular mate thus encouraging mating if the male ‘passes the test’. This is called the “cartwheel courtship flight.” On occasion two males might enter into locked talons and downward spiral as a territorial defense. On rare occasion either ritual can result in miscalculating the distance to the ground and end in death or injury. In this case since it was a male and female it was likely a courtship flight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *