RENO — Wildlife experts say they’re cautiously optimistic that an eagle that crashed through the windshield of a tractor-trailer on a Nevada highway can be released back into the wild in two or three months.
The 15-pound golden eagle with a 7-foot wing span is " doing well" at the Northeastern Nevada Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, its director, Jo Dean, said Sunday. The center is in Spring Creek.
But how the female bird will respond after suffering a slight bone fracture on part of its wing is unclear, she said.
Most raptors with broken wings do not sufficiently heal to allow their return to the wild, but that is because their fractures are usually much more severe, she said.
"We set it as best we could and wrapped it," Dean said. "We’re all cautiously optimistic, but you never know with birds.
"But she’s strong. Eagles are phenomenally tough. I have seen raptors with similar injuries released back into the wild," she said.
A Florida truck driver was driving on Interstate 80 in northeastern Nevada near Wells, about 60 miles west of the Utah line, when the eagle came crashing into the cab of his truck on March 2.
Experts are unsure whether the bird hit the windshield head first or sideways. They think it was eating roadkill before the accident.
Swelling around one of the eagle’s eyes has completely gone down, Dean said, and the raptor appears to have escaped internal injuries.
The bird is thought to be at least 5 years of age.
"Her body is functioning well, and she’s eating well," Dean said. "Who knows how she survived it. I guess it’s a fluke of physics."
Plans call for the eagle to start testing its wings in a flight cage at the facility in a month or so.
If successful, the eagle could be released back into the wild in northeastern Nevada a month or two later, she said.
"It’ll be the most amazing wildlife story if we have a successful release," Dean said. "We’re hoping that’s the way the story ends."