Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury wanted to see "freedom fly."
On Friday, she got her wish when the DuPage County Forest Preserve District released a bald eagle found injured in her town two months ago.
The eagle had suffered a wound from a BB gun, leaving a pellet lodged in its wing. Unable to fly or to find water or food, he was dehydrated in the thick of winter, Bury said.
"This was in the coldest part of winter and the poor eagle was just emaciated," she said. "We called animal rescue and they recovered the eagle and brought it to this wonderful rehabilitation program."
Staff members at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, where the male eagle was nursed back to health over the past two months, said his rehabilitation involved surgery to remove the BB pellet, time for the injured wing to heal and practice in a 100-foot circular flight chamber to regain the ability to soar.
"The goal for our success is to know that that animal can succeed out in the wild without human intervention," said Sandy Fejt, education site manager at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
The raptor was back to full form on Friday as he took flight at Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve and began to survey his new surroundings. The 3,426-acre preserve was chosen as the release site because of its wide open spaces without too many people and its proximity to water sources where the eagle can find fish.
Willowbrook staff members called the bird "feisty" and said they were pleased he was ready for independence in a natural setting -- especially because he wasn't the greatest house guest.
"Once he was stabilized, he was actually kind of not a good patient," Fejt said. "He ended up ripping off his bandages."
Before the eagle flew away to freedom, he got a final farewell from the two animal control officers who helped rescue him from the cold. Barry Adamczyk of Oak Lawn Animal Control and Robert Negrete of Stickney Township Animal Control pulled back the door of the carrier in which the eagle spent the drive from the wildlife center in Glen Ellyn to the forest preserve near Wayne.
"When we got the call, I didn't think it would be an eagle," Adamczyk said. "When I got there and I saw it, I couldn't believe it."