The 12-pound female golden eagle was found grounded in early November, and refused to fly when approached by Dugway Proving Ground's wildlife biologists. It was placed into a rehabilitation facility, fed, and medicated until it demonstrated fitness to return to the wild.
The release at 5 Mile Hill, beside Little Granite Peak, was attended by approximately 100 students, teachers, bird enthusiasts, Tooele School District officials, Dugway's command staff and members of its Natural Resource Office.
Sean Featherstone, science teacher at Dugway School, created an "Importance of Wildlife" essay contest for the students. It was won by Isabelle Lanbourne, a senior. Robbie Knight, the NRO program manager, held the eagle firmly and allowed a few children to touch its wing feathers.
"My hope is that we released an adult golden eagle that will spend many years at Dugway," Knight said, noting that there are four unoccupied golden eagle nests at Granite Peak awaiting the bird.
Within Dugway's 800,000 acres, wildlife biologists have identified 404 nests made by birds of prey. Nearly 100 are made by golden eagles, who may nest year-round. Bald eagles spend little time on Dugway, migrating between Alaska and Mexico in spring and fall.
"Dugway Proving Ground is a good steward of the environment," Knight said. "While we support training and testing, we also protect all that is here."