TRACADIE CROSS, P.E.I. - An injured eagle that was rescued and brought back to health was given a proper sendoff Wednesday as she was released back into the wild.
At the end of March, Melissa Peter-Paul was driving back to the Island from Moncton when she suddenly had to slam on the brakes.
Just as she stopped, an injured eagle hopped across the road in front of her.
Peter-Paul, who is a member of the Abegweit First Nation, called her father, Mi’kmaq elder Junior Peter-Paul, who quickly made the trip to Bedford.
Peter-Paul, her father and conservation officer Wade MacKinnon began a rescue mission hoping to help the injured bird.
“She was running away from us as we were getting closer,” Peter-Paul told The Guardian. “She got to a tree line and we were able to get her.”
Peter-Paul’s father had the privilege to walk the injured eagle to the truck, which then transported her to the Atlantic Veterinary College Wildlife Services in Charlottetown.
“It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Peter-Paul said, adding the eagle is symbolic for the Mi’kmaq people, so finding this eagle was a sign.
“It came at the right time for our community,” she said, adding several community members have been sick and an elder had just passed away.
“There’s so many different connections people are having to the eagle. It’s providing a lot of healing and strength to our community members.”
The eagle is one of the Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings, which are teachings that represent traditional concepts of respect and sharing that form the Aboriginal way of life.
The eagle represents love, she said.
“It’s a highly respected animal in our culture because it’s the closest animal to the creator. We rely on the eagle to send up our prayers,” she said. “So, to be able to hold one, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”
A spokeswoman at AVC said the eagle was unable to fly because of an injured left wing, which sustained a hairline fracture in one of its digits. The underside of the wing was bruised and scabbed over. The bird received wound care, fluids, antibiotics and pain medication while at the AVC Wildlife Services.
On April 25, she was ready to be released, but not before Peter-Paul’s father led a smudging ceremony to honour the eagle.
Drums played and he sang in a field next to St. Bonaventure's Church in Tracadie Cross. When it was time to release her, she didn’t fly away at first.
“I think she wants to stay here with me,” he said, laughing.
Finally, she flew away towards the trees, and the crowd of about 75 people cheered.
Peter-Paul’s son, Owen, was excited to be at the eagle’s release.
“It was a little scary being maybe a meter away, that’s like my first time ever being that close,” he said following the release and said it was a good feeling.
“I’m connected with the eagle, my mom’s connected to the eagle and everyone here is really connected to this eagle.”
The 11-year-old said he was proud of his mom and happy the eagle was OK.
“Look, she’s flying again!” he cried out as he pointed to the sky as the eagle soared by.