MESA VERDE – A golden eagle restored to health after being struck by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 160 just west of Mancos on May 2 went home Thursday.
Scott, named after Scott Gregersen, who found the 4-year-old male golden and pulled him to safety, exploded out of a cardboard box when it was opened at the Mancos Overlook at an elevation of 7,800 feet.
He headed straight for higher terrain to the west and found refuge in the rocky mountain face. After resting and getting oriented, he rose above the peaks to ride the thermals.
Gregersen and Carole Withers, the raptor specialist at Durango Wildlife Rehabilitation, freed Scott, who since the May 2 accident convalesced at Durango Animal Hospital and the “hospital” Withers has at her Durango home. While at the animal hospital, veterinarian Chuck Hawman patched his fractured lower beak.
Withers has rehabilitated raptors for 20 years in Durango and in Hawaii for 20 years before that.
Gregersen, owner of Cortez-based The Specialist Painting and Log Refinishing, came upon the golden eagle, injured while eating a dead prairie dog on U.S. Highway 160.
He and another driver blocked the highway with their vehicles while Gregersen wrapped the bird in a tarp and moved him to the side.
“I was afraid he wouldn’t make it,” Gregersen said. “There was blood coming out of his mouth.”
Gregersen drove the eagle west on Highway 160 to Cherry Creek Road and handed him off to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers.
Among the crowd seeing Scott off to the wilds were Gregersen’s parents, Carol and Larry Gregersen, and aunt and uncle, Jan and Don Pauly, who are visiting from Minnesota.
Carol Gregersen said her son, who grew up in Arizona, was an avid collector of snakes, lizards and at one time, a Gila monster.
Withers said Scott made a quick recovery compared to other raptors she has rehabilitated. He refused dead rats during his first days at the animal hospital and at her home, she said.
“But otherwise, he ate like crazy,” Withers said. “He did so well that there was no reason to keep him.”
If raptors require longer rehabilitation, Withers houses them in an expansive wire-mesh flight center in the north Animas Valley.