of The Northwestern
For two weeks Lightning has been sending Patricia Fisher, the woman
who nursed her back to health, a wordless message.
It’s time to let her go.
Lightning, a bald eagle, was severely injured in June of 2005 when the
tree holding her nest in Waushara County was struck by lightning and
started on fire. Lightning and another young eagle dubbed Thunder were
Thunder was released a year ago. Lightning will be released late
Saturday morning at the Petenwell Dam east of Neceda on the Wisconsin
It’s a day of mixed emotion for Fisher, who at 71, has been a volunteer
wildlife rehabilitator for 21 years. Her Feather Rehabilitation and
Education center in New London tends to about 100 birds each year. Both
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources license the center.
“It’s a sad day and a good day. When you care for them you become part
of who they are,” Fisher said.
DNR Warden Dave Algrem in Wautoma found one of the eagles on the ground.
The second one came down with the nest after firefighters chopped the
tree down to put out the blaze. Algrem placed them in a box and took
them to Fisher.
“They were a mess when they came to me. Their feathers were absolutely
annihilated. You could see the exit wounds on their feet where the
lightning left their bodies,” Fisher said.
The first two weeks of rehab were intense as Fisher applied medication
and bandaged their feet. After that she purposefully had minimal contact
with the birds. That improves their chances of surviving in the wild
once the rehab is complete, Fisher said.
After the wounds healed it was simply a waiting game to see if the
feathers would grow in. It turned out to be a long wait for Thunder who
was released a year ago. She lived only three months. She died of a
spinal injury, but she was found 75 miles from where she’d been released
and had gained two pounds.
Fisher was not sad.
“She died outside doing what eagles do,” she said.
Lightning’s wait for freedom has been longer. She’s finally ready.
Throughout the rehab Fisher has kept an eagle eye on Lightning.
“She’s on camera. I’ve been watching her. The last two weeks she’s been
flying continually. She’s been telling me ‘You’ve got to get me out of
here,’” Fisher said.
Several volunteers will accompany Fisher to the Petenwell Dam this
morning. They expect to arrive between 11 a.m. and noon. Lightning will
be released where there is a food source and other eagles.
One of the volunteers will toss her skyward.
“The rest is up to her,” Fisher said.
Patricia Wolff: (920) 426-6689 or