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Eagle symbolizes center’s need to expand

Susan Wood

The hood was removed, revealing the piercing eyes of a determined golden eagle aiming to fly and hunt like it used to.

Its talons, which can crush with 60 pounds of pressure, were untethered Saturday in a snowy South Shore meadow off Highway 50.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care operator Tom Millham flung the raptor into the air, as a precursor to a possible release in a few weeks.

It sailed 30 feet up then quickly descended, attached to a rope that allowed volunteer Gail Alexander to easily retrieve it.

After eight attempts, the eagle’s mouth dropped open to get air.

Millham took out the injured bird for its daily exercise.

“Yeah, she’s getting a workout. When she tried this a few days ago, it was 80 degrees, and she was getting real hot, real fast,” Millham said, as the bird revealed its 6-foot wingspan when Alexander picked it up.

Even a small gesture like flapping wings helps to build up muscles and increase the cardiovascular effort, Millham explained.

“All this is good,” he said. “It’s like our no pain, no gain.”

The 10-pound golden eagle will be released over Carson Pass to possibly live 20 years.

For two months, the Tahoe Paradise-area animal rehabilitation center has cared for the eagle, which was found near Mammoth with a concussion after it was hit by a car. Millham and his wife, Cheryl, have built the bird’s strength through the workouts and a diet of a rabbit every other day.

South Lake Tahoe Councilwoman Kathy Lovell joined volunteers to witness the flight.

The center wants to expand – ideally up to 16 acres to make room for rehab efforts and educational programs.

The city is requesting assistance from a host of agencies. Lovell serves on a City Council subcommittee with Tom Davis to try to find a place for the center.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care also houses two ospreys and two great horned owls.

Millham dreams of the day when he has the space to exercise the birds indoors. Included in the relocation plan is a 300-foot fly space.

“Then, we can fly them year-round,” he said.