As the blanket was being pulled off the dog carrier, the bald eagle within began pecking at its door.
The clicks and gurgles coming from its bright yellow beak oozed agitation and excitement.
The bird’s long and painful journey was about to end with its first free flight in more than two months.
On March 15, the eagle was found on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway in Malakwa by a woman returning to the Lower Mainland from Revelstoke.
After a few phone calls looking for someone who could care for the injured bird, she was able to turn it over to Gary Turner, a Vernon resident who rescues birds for the OWL Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.
The following day, the eagle was on a commercial flight to Vancouver and then off to OWL’s facility in Delta.
Turner said staff told him the eagle was a mature and exceptionally large female of about eight years old. Her leg was broken, likely due to a collision with a vehicle.
At the facility, the bird’s injuries were healed and she had made a full recovery.
On June 5, volunteers returned the caged raptor to Turner so he could release her near the area where it had been hit.
On the shoulder of a rural road about half a kilometre from the highway, Turner opened the gate of the cage and the eagle sprang free.
She came to a stop with its talons in the dirt, looked at the small group of onlookers for a split second and then lunged into the sky.
Among those watching in wonder as the eagle left the cage were Colleen Thurgood and her grandchildren, Aspyn and Cohen Dupuis. “It was so cool,” Aspyn said as the trio scanned the horizon for another glimpse of the bird.
The work is very important to Turner.
He said more than 90 per cent of the injured birds he has aided were negatively affected by humans in some way, so people should take responsibility for their recovery.