CASTALIA, Ohio (AP) -- Workers at a wildlife rehabilitation center in northern Ohio have spent the last three months caring for a female bald eagle hit by a plane and trying to teach it how to fly again.
The eagle has been through two surgeries to repair a broken wing, including one to remove pins put in during the first procedure, since it was injured at an airport near Port Clinton.
But while the adult bird was eating well and appeared to be improving, she wasn't flying like she should.
Workers would stay with her in a flight cage and encourage her to take off, but she would go no higher than a couple feet, said Heather Yount, staff supervisor at Back to the Wild.
"It was very disheartening," Yount told The News-Herald newspaper (http://ohne.ws/ZeSa7G) in Port Clinton.
Finally, last week workers went into the flight cage and found the eagle looking down from a perch about 8 above the ground.
"You get so excited when you see this type of progress," Yount said. "She is a fighter. I think she knows she's going back into the wild."
The staff next plans to move the eagle into a larger flight cage where she can practice making turns.
If all goes well, they hope to release the eagle late this summer, Yount said.
Federal law requires wildlife rehabilitation centers like to keep birds no more than 180 days in recovery or they must be euthanized, she said.
Because the eagle's recovery will take more time than that, the government gave the center an extension.
Returning the animals they rehabilitate to nature is the goal at Back to the Wild.
"That's the best part of the job, to see an animal basically at death's door and months later, you open your arms and see it fly away," Yount said. "They touch our lives as much as we touch theirs."
But some animals have an illness or problem that stops them from surviving in the wild and they are kept at the center for educational use.
That's probably what would happen if the eagle can't recover, she said.
Back to the Wild, which treats thousands of animals -- wild birds, foxes, turtles, fawns, squirrels and rabbits -- each year, is funded through donations. Many of its supporters have taken a special interest in the eagle.
"We get requests for updates on her on our Facebook page," Yount said.
Information from: Port Clinton News-Herald, http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com