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Rescued bald eagle arrives at rehab center

A photo of the juvenile bald eagle rescued

A photo of the juvenile bald eagle rescued from the waters of the Long Island Sound just before Independence Day. (July 3, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

A beleaguered bald eagle rescued from the middle of Long Island Sound on Monday arrived at a New Jersey wildlife rehabilitation center Wednesday morning to be assessed, treated and prepared for release into the wild.

The bird arrived between 9 and 10 a.m. at The Raptor Trust in Millington, N.J., which specializes in wild bird rescue and rehabilitation. Lauren Butcher, the nonprofit's education director, said the eagle was immediately placed inside a heated intensive-care enclosure.

"Our initial mantra as rehabilitators is to keep the bird warm, dark and quiet," Butcher said.

A quick check showed that the eagle is just several months old. The bird, possibly a male, is thin and has no obvious fractures, but does have several facial lesions, she said. More won't be known until a full medical checkup, including X-rays and other diagnostic tests, is complete within the next few days.

"In most cases we don't know the circumstances that may have led to the bird's situation, their distress, but at least we'll be able to determine the medical status of the bird and address any problems through diagnostic work," Butcher said.

Mitch Kramer, a towboat owner on his way to Connecticut, found the juvenile bird struggling in the water about 15 miles east of Eatons Neck. After Kramer rescued the flailing bird, his wife, Donna Kramer, manager of My Pet's Vet in Huntington, stabilized the bird.

When the eagle is ready, Butcher said staffers will feed it fish, farm-raised quail and rodents.

"We try to provide as close to a natural diet as possible," she said.

The bird had been dubbed Indy -- short for Independence Day -- but Butcher said rehabilitators discourage treating the birds like pets by giving them names.

"Our whole process is about getting the birds back into the wild," she said.

The bird is the first bald eagle to come to the Trust this year.

Bald eagles were removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007. They had become endangered after toxic pollutants killed off many and damaged breeding efforts.

In New York, where sightings of the raptors have increased, its status has been upgraded from endangered to threatened.

On the Island, bald eagle sightings have also been on the rise, Audubon officials said.

With Ellen Yan

and Nathaniel Herz

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