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FIRST GEORGIA EAGLE BRED IN CAPTIVITY TO BE RELEASED

 FIRST GEORGIA EAGLE BRED IN CAPTIVITY TO BE RELEASED
 ATLANTA, May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Georgia has reached a milestone


in the efforts to restore bald eagles to the state.
 The first bald eagle bred in captivity in Georgia will soon be introduced to the freedom it symbolizes when it is released on Sapelo Island as part of the state's Eagle Restoration Program.
 "This eagle is very special," said Terry Johnson, director of the Department of Natural Resources' Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. "Not only is it the very first eagle bred in captivity in our state, but this bird's release to Georgia skies will be the result of three very committed organizations working together to make it happen. It gives me a great deal of pride to be a part of this cooperative effort."
 The three organizations that have made this bird's release possible are: Department of Natural Resources Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program, Chehaw Wild Animal Park, Albany, Ga. and the National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
 The record-setting eagle hatched on March 21 at Chehaw Wild Animal Park. After two weeks of careful observation, the Chehaw staff discovered that the parents were not taking care of the eaglet properly, and sent the bird to Al Cecere, president of the National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles. This organization's National Eagle Facility in Pigeon Forge is equipped to care for eaglets so the birds do not become "imprinted" or dependent on man for food.
 Now the 9-week-old eagle, strong and healthy, is returning home to Georgia. The eagle will be delivered by Cecere to wildlife officials of the Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens on Friday, May 22 at 1:30 p.m.
 State wildlife officials hope this eagle represents the first of a long line of captive bred eagles. Its parents, captive birds with a successful breeding history since 1976, were obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Md., and placed by the DNR in 1988 at Chehaw Wild Animal Park with the hope the birds would continue breeding eagles for Georgia.
 "We have been releasing bald eagles in Georgia since 1979, and until now we have depended on states like Minnesota and Florida to supply us with eaglets that could be released here," said Johnson. "Releasing our own captive bred eagles has been a goal of the Nongame Program for a long time, and the success of this eagle is an exciting first step in that direction."
 The eaglet, the first to be released this year, will be taken immediately to a DNR Hacking Facility on Sapelo Island. A hacking facility is where raptors, bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcons and kestrels can be reared and released without becoming "imprinted" or dependent on man for food. These birds are kept in a man-made cage which simulates a nest in the wild until they are able to fly. After about four weeks, wildlife officials place a band on the leg of the birds and open the cage. Artificial feeding is continued until the birds can hunt and feed on their own. The theory behind "hacking" raptors is that because eagles and other raptors normally return to the place they learned to fly to nest, these "hacked" raptors will return to the vicinity of the hacking facility to nest when they become sexually mature. This will help create a nesting population of eagles in Georgia.
 Georgia's Eagle Restoration Program is working. In 1980, not one bald eagle nest could be found in Georgia. Today, more than 23 bald eagle nests have been located, and 15 of those nests produced young this year.
 -0- 5/21/92
 /EDITOR'S NOTE: Members of the media are invited to welcome home Georgia's first captive bred eaglet at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens on Friday, May 22, at 1:30 p.m. This will provide an excellent photo opportunity. Terry Johnson of the Nongame- Endangered Wildlife Program, Al Cecere of the National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles and Charles Marshall, manager of Chehaw Wild Animal Park, will be available for interviews. Call The State Botanical Garden of Georgia at 404-542-1244 for directions./
 /CONTACT: Robin Russell or Michelle Stripling of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 404-656-0528 or 404-656-0807/ CO: Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Chehaw Wild Animal Park;
 National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles ST: Georgia, Tennessee IN: SU:


BR-EA -- AT005 -- 2691 05/21/92 09:50 EDT
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Date:May 21, 1992
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