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Golden eagle released in honor of firefighters who fought Brian Head Fire


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ESCALANTE — Hiking near Escalante in Garfield County will give you the kinds of views you usually see in adventure magazines.

Outdoors guide Jim Clery has been guiding people through the area for years, but last month, he saw something he had never seen before.

"I could tell he was exhausted and really wasn't moving and not trying to get away from me," he said.

Not a person, a bird — a Golden Eagle, to be precise.

Michael Thompson is the ranger at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He went to get the eagle after Clery called him that day and couldn't believe the condition the bird was in.

"She was emaciated and atrophied,” Thompson said. “Her muscles, her breast muscles were gone. She was trying to flex her wings, but I was amazed she lasted that long. It wouldn't have made it another day.”

After spending a month rehabilitating with the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, the bird was well enough to fly and be on her own again.

But first, there was a dedication.

The bird’s flight into the air was dedicated to the firefighters who fought the Brian Head Fire that sparked last month.

“This eagle is for all the firefighters that have risked their lives to save our lives and property, and we're incredibly grateful to them for that," said a person in the crowd.

Friday was the first day Clery saw the eagle since finding it in such bad shape.

"It's nice seeing her healthy and she's definitely a bit fuller,” Clery said. “You can tell she's a bit stronger now this go around."

The rehabilitation went so well for this bird, wildlife experts think she has as good a chance as any to make it in the wild. It’s all because someone cared to do something, just like firefighters cared to try and save homes.

"It's a positive thing after everything that has happened (here)," Thompson said.

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